The President's Council on Sustainable Development was created
to "explore and develop policies that encourage economic growth,
job creation, and effective use of our natural and cultural
resources. Sustainable development is development that meets
the needs of the present without compromising the future." The
President appointed 25 individuals from industry, government
(including Cabinet members), environment, labor and civil rights
organizations to develop new ways to integrate economic and
Primary functions of the Council will be to:
1) make policy recommendations to President Clinton for a
national strategy for sustainable development,
2) respond to the recommendations in Agenda 21,
3) initiate projects that demonstrate and test the viability of
the Council's recommendations,
4) establish links with other non-government organizations
within and outside the U.S.,
5) recognize outstanding sustainable development achievements
through an annual Presidential award, and,
6) educate the public about opportunities in sustainable
SUMMARY OF THE MOST RECENT MEETING (October 18, 1993)
The second formal meeting of the PCSD was held last Monday from
8:00 am to 5:00 pm in the Auditorium at the Department of
Commerce in Washington D.C. Vice President Al Gore gave the
opening remarks and stressed the importance of the Council's
work on policies that reconcile economic and environmental
objectives. He also mentioned the importance of a philosophical
shift away from single problem analysis to systems approaches
for problem solving.
During the morning session the following task forces (created at
the first meeting) summarized their work up to this point:
1) Principles, Goals and Definition of Sustainable Development,
2) Public Linkage, Dialogue and Education,
3) Sustainable Communities (attended by Vice President, Al Gore)
Reports were also given on issues relevant for each task force
("cross-cutting issues") such as population, education and
policy tools to stimulate sustainable development. Sustainable
agriculture was only mentioned in passing during these reports.
THE HIGHLIGHTS LISTED BELOW WERE DISCUSSION POINTS AND SHOULD
NOT BE CONSIDERED AS ADMINISTRATION POLICY, OR THE POLICY OF THE
**Principles, Goals and Definition of Sustainable Development
Suggested that the definition of sustainable development used
by the Bruntland Commission be used to guide the PCSD:
"meeting the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Identified four connected themes of sustainable development
which may be used to generate one or more of the principles the
Task Force hopes to draft to PCSD consideration.
1.Eco-efficiency 2. Economic progress 3. Fairness
4. Options for Market Mechanisms
**Public Linkage, Dialogue and Education Task Force
Suggested that PCSD should develop an individual and public
consciousness that acknowledges the link between behavior and
resulting consequences. Success will depend on the following
1. Sustainable development initiatives must evolve through
collaborative planning and consensus building in which all
segments of society are represented.
2. The concepts of sustainability must become well known and
**Sustainable Communities Task Force
PCSD should identify "federal, state and local incentives and
policies that could enhance a community's effort to plan for a
sustainable future, as well as identifying current government
policies/programs that act as impediments to this effort."
In addition, the sustainable communities task force must
establish a systematic way for local communities to communicate
with the Council.
** Energy Task Force
The Energy Task Force recommends that the PCSD creates a bold
and practical vision of what a sustainable energy picture would
look like; develops a shared understanding of where we presently
are and why, and; identify practical steps that can be done in
the interim to move the nation towards the goal of
The scope of the issue must be broad enough to include power
generation, transportation, industrial and residential uses.
There was discussion on whether Global Warming should be part of
this task force's responsibilities or whether is should be dealt
**Natural Resources Development and Environmental Protection
"Watersheds provide a unit of analysis for natural resource
problems because it provides a system in which land, water,
biological, air and human resources interact."
Regional teams will be established to analyze the key problems
and successes of representative watersheds. Each team will
identify the key economic activities in the watershed that have:
exemplified sustainable development, contributed to resource
degradation or have declined because of unwise use.
**Eco-efficiency Task Force
Eco-efficiency is operationally defined as: "minimizing
environmental impact while maximizing economic and social gain."
"Business must move toward Eco-efficiency in manufacturing and
services, including life-cycle stewardship for all manufactured
"Society must create the context needed to integrate
Eco-efficiency into business culture: supportive policies,
regulations and economic incentives; an expanded and more
broadly available technological base; and public values."
Written questions submitted to the Council by the audience were
directed to members of the Council. The audience was also given
a chance to verbally address the Council. Concerns raised by
^The PCSD process should encourage real citizens' participation.
Media such as Internet, Econet and satellite links can provide
low-cost means of both distributing Council information and
eliciting citizen reaction. The expertise residing with NGOs
should be tapped.
^The Energy Task Force should focus on renewable technologies,
stressing efficiency and invite participation by small and
medium-sized companies in developing renewable technologies.
Sustainable Agriculture was stressed at several points in the
afternoon, during the priority setting, and member assignment
session. It was recognized that ecological farming must be
approached within the overall context of American agricultural
policy. Jonathan Lash, World Resources Institute, wondered out
loud about where it should be reside: as part of the
Sustainable Community, Eco-efficiency or Natural Resources task
force? There was some discussion, as well, of making it a
cross-cutting issue or a task force of its own. The final
destination of sustainable agriculture will be decided by the
Liaison Committee on October 19.
Decisions on the two other "floating" clusters, Education and
Population/Consumption were also deferred.
PCSD Meetings Scheduled for 1994: January 13, April 18, July
22, and October 28. These locations will alternate between
Washington, DC and other sites, and will also be open to the
Gabriel A. Hegyes
Sustainable Agriculture Network
Tracy Irwin Hewitt,
Resources and Technology Division,
Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA