Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sustainable development and Armenia’s environment…

“The moral argument is that we have a duty to preserve irreplaceable gifts of creation, whereas we have no comparable duty toward transient commercial goods. The economic argument is that any society that depletes its natural capital is bound to become impoverished over time.”

I used this Peter Barnes quote from Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons to open an article about sustainable development for the special year-end magazine issue of the Armenian Weekly. The commentary gives an overview of environmental challenges in the Republic of Armenia caused primarily by the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.

The copper smelter in Alaverdi poses a great risk to public health in Armenia (Photograph by Hawk Khatcherian)

A widely accepted definition of sustainable development is reviewed, along with an emphasis on the economic value of environmental services provided by forests. The following are some of the key conclusions: The protection of agricultural lands from loss of topsoil caused by deforestation and erosion must be prevented, especially given Armenia’s finite resources and geographic isolation.

Strategic decisions and actions taken today can prevent potential resource conflicts both within Armenia and with Armenia’s neighbors. And finally, sustainability must be an integral part of any national development strategy, and by definition it must address economic, environmental, and social factors.

In response to the urgency of the situation, there are signs of progress. I cite ATP's backyard nursery micro-enterprise program, which was selected as a National Winner of the Energy Globe Award for Sustainability at the European Parliament in Brussels, and the United Nations Global Compact which been operating in Armenia since 2006 and has enlisted more than 30 business and organizations committed to aligning their operations with universally accepted principles in the areas of environmental protection and social issues.