The Sustainability Debate

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The Blues are mainstream free-marketers. Such people have a positive bias toward the future based on technological optimism and the strength of the economy. They are armed with a strong statistical case, based on the vigorous and dynamic economies of Western and (until1998) Asian nations. Their approach is deeply rooted in conventional economics, and their number-crunching reveals a world vastly improved and rapidly ascending. Blues believe that reliance on innovation, investment, and individual freedom will ensure a shining future for humankind, and a level of material well-being that has strong appeal to virtually everyone in the world. Their optimism also extends to the environment, believing that in most cases, markets will send strong and appropriate price signals that will elicit timely responses, mitigating environmental damage or causing technological breakthroughs

The Reds represent the sundry forms of socialism. Although one might expect them to have been discredited by the downfall of the Soviet Union, their worldview is very much alive. They find validation in the chaotic and horrific economic conditions that the rise of bandit capitalism has brought to contemporary Russia, a country whose economic machinery now benefits a minority at the expense of a materially and socially disadvantaged majority. The growing and worldwide gap between rich and poor confirms the Reds’ analyses, which are as accurate about poverty and suffering as the Blues’ observations are accurate about growth and change. While Blues focus on the promise of growth and technology, Reds focus on its shadow and try to discern its root causes. They view labor—one aspect of human capital—as the principal source of wealth and see its exploitation as the basis of injustice, impoverishment, and ignorance. The Reds generally have little to say about the environment, seeing it as a distraction from fundamentally important social issues.

The Greens see the world primarily in terms of ecosystems, and thus concentrate on depletion, damage, pollution, and population growth. They focus on carrying capacity and want to bring about better under- standing of how large the economy can grow before it outstrips its host. Their policy focuses on how many and how much, the number of people, and the amount of impact each person can have upon the environment. Greens are not usually technophobes; most see technology as an important tool to reduce human impact. More recently, some have become interested in free-market mechanisms, and want externalities presently borne by society to be fully integrated into producer costs and consumer prices so that markets become, in David Korten’s phrase, “mindful.” The Greens, and to some extent the Reds, host bigger tents in that they hold a bolder and broader diversity of views. But this also keeps them splintered and self-canceling, as Greens tend to unite their enemies and divide their friends, a good formula for political failure. They are often portrayed as caring less for people than animals, more about halogenated compounds than waterborne diseases.

The Whites are the synthesists, and do not entirely oppose or agree with any of the three other views. With an optimistic view of humankind, they believe that process will win the day, that people who tell others what is right lead society astray. Since Blues, Reds, and Greens all fall into that category, Whites reject them all, preferring a middle way of integration, reform, respect, and reliance. They reject ideologies whether based on markets, class, or nature, and trust that informed people can solve their own problems. On the environmental level, they argue that all issues are local. On business, they say the fabled level playing field never existed because of market imperfections, lobbying, subsidies, and capital concentration. On social problems, they argue that solutions will naturally arise from place and culture rather than from ideology. Leadership in the White world is reminiscent of the Taoist reminder that good rulers make their subjects feel as if they succeeded by themselves. Environmental and social solutions can emerge only when local people are empowered and honored.


According to your assessment of the “Pink Lake Development Plan” and based on the debate discussion in class. Summarize, in half a page, the main point of strength in the group you presented and the main point of weaknesses in one of the other groups that you fundamentally disagree with.    

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7 thoughts on “The Sustainability Debate

  1. As a member of the socialist group, the only benefit that this project has is the focus on the education center. An education center will allow for citizens to expand their horizons and gain economic advantage. However, even though the plan includes and educational “city”, this part of the plan was heavily linked with corporations. Education should be accessible to all people without compromising quality or integrity.

    There are numerous negative points to this project that are harmful to the lower class and the people of Senegal. The planned city seems to focus on the amenities for the upper class and has drastically commodified the culture and natural environment of Senegal. The concept of an “African Theme Park” is distasteful and derogatory; it seems to only exists to generate more money for the developers of this city. The idea of “traditional craft malls” is the worst combination of Western world shopping malls and the exploitation of traditional practices.

    The biggest concerns the socialists group has is the labor required to build and sustain a city designed to serve the rich and powerful. Who are the people that will clean the hotels and the spas? Will these people be paid well for their labor? Will these same people be able to afford to live in the city that they work in? The plan for this city must remember and accommodate for all socio-economic strata.

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  2. The Pink Lake project was clearly a for-profit development that would benefit only those with the wealth to live there. The underlying issues of this project is the governmental structure of the country it is located in. As a free-trade, capitalistic nation, basic human needs are not being met by the national government.

    A socialist society should provide free or affordable food & water, housing, health care, education, and other fundamental human rights. Other countries have shown that redistributing wealth through taxation of the wealthy is successful in supporting basic human needs for all, as well as providing funding for public infrastructure like open space, educational facilities, and sustainable transportation options. Meeting the needs of all people ends the most prevalent issues of human society, addressing the main issues of inequality.

    The Pink Lake development, based on the proposal appears to be a free-market haven for those who have wealth and control the means of production. This is clear just by the organization of land uses where the nicest residences are along the waterfront, lack of affordable housing, concentration of business areas in the most convenient locations of the city, and emphasis on leisurely land uses like resorts, amusement parks, and “craft retail” districts.

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  3. My group was the green group, the environmentalists. I think the strength of the position was that it doesn’t really care about the economics or the equity, but whether or not natural resources and impact has been properly assessed and planned for. I don’t think the plan as presented explained how this desert area was going to support such a large population and how impacts were to be mitigated. The plan was designed to sell investors on the economic idea but beyond some cheesy graphics didn’t go into detail on the feasibility of the development. I’m not entirely sure one can “develop” a city from the ground up – I thought cities are the result of a robust economy all the way from the resource extraction and agriculture levels on up. If the area doesn’t already have these things, how can it support a city? I think (as a green) that there is hope for the free-market capitalist way of doing things but this plan is fairly shallow.

    I enjoyed the debate today and I think the class would benefit from having a series of these debates on a variety of topics throughout the semester. It makes apparent that a lot of the division and conflict that we experience is really the conflict of ideologies, and our culture and practices are how we “play out” these ideas. I think we’re at a tipping point where socialism and free-market capitalism are at odds and environmental issues are becoming the banner issues of activists while the vast majority of people would prefer to go on living their lives and remain neutral and uninvolved. The issue of whether or not we have the option of morally pure choices is an important one to bring up as well. There is no action without reaction, without consequence. Sometimes an action that benefits you and your kin disadvantages others and we are grappling with the morality of who wins in a scenario where someone (or something) always loses. Can nature always be the loser and mankind always the winner? Is it right to keep some in poverty so that ecosystems can remain intact and provide services to the majority? How do we quantify these things? I think most people in the course would do well to look into the psychology and biology of decision making. From my previous coursework I learned that it’s not that complicated, we make the same decisions that all reproducing lifeforms make – we favor those more closely related to us. The challenge is convincing people that we are all closely related and that we are even closely related to other lifeforms.

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  4. Synthesists do not agree or disagree with other parties. The strength of this group is thinking of local people first. We reject blues, reds, and greens and prefer a middle way of integration, reform, respect, and reliance. We trust that people of Senegal can solve their problems. The blues, reds, and blues do not tackle the most crucial question: Is the Pink Lake Development Plan for the people of Senegal? The developers designed this project in order of five phases (i.e., resort, culture, etc.). First, we recommend developers to consult with local communities if they agree with these stages and the order of them. Second, the Pink Lake is fed by groundwater and receives a large supply of neighboring village’s backwater. Communities are already experiencing a severe water shortage, so developers should try to minimize any further water damage in this area. Second, this Lake has been on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Tentative List since 2005 because of its unique pink color. All parties should respect the values of the Pink Lake. Third, we disagree with Reds that this plan will help people of Senegal to get out of poverty and suffering. This project may provide job opportunity for local people but do these opportunities give a chance for people to truly reflect who they are? All the parties should realize that the solutions for people of Senegal will naturally arise from place and culture rather than from ideology.

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  5. As a synthesist, I appreciate the efforts put in by the City of Senegal to rethink its structure, to attract change through building on the resources available. However, the Pink Lake Development Plan was heavily inclined towards building a new city while not taking into consideration the cultural and geographical specialties of a city like Senegal where a large group of the population still live in rural areas. The Plan speaks about utilizing the plentiful natural resources but fails to address the issue from a sustainable point of view. For a place like Senegal which is trying to become a flagship city in West Africa, the best way to approach a Plan of this scale would be to start small, build the framework for future growth in all aspects such as infrastructure, economics, etc and then study the growth and proceed according to the success of the starter city block. This paced growth method will ensure that the socio-economic and environmental investments made on it are not superficial.

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  6. As environmentalists of the green group, we don’t need to consider too much about the economic growth or the development of local people’s life. We focus more on the pollution, environmental sustainability, and the usage of natural resources rather than the construction of Pink City. However, it does not mean we do not understand what economic development mean to Senegal, the country located in the desert. The economic development of a country in poverty with very limited resources should be gradual and done step by step. It should be acknowledged that Pink Lake is a pretty place with abundant vegetation and wild animals, which is rare in the desert. Our concern is that the local ecological system and natural resources should be well protected instead of implementing city plans.
    The Pink Lake project is unequal to the local people since it is targeted on serving the wealthy foreign tourists and those domestic people of upper level. The leisure and healthcare resorts are absolutely not accommodated for local people. Since the whole lake is surrounded by roads and buildings, the connections between Pink Lake and neighbor ecosystems are blocked, and wild animals will lose accesses to the lake for drinking and hunting. In addition, there is no plan for the waste, future land use and food. It makes me questioning the life quality of middle class and low-class people. The government of Senegal should be more realistic about the city plan and economic development.

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  7. The free-marketers rely on arguments that the world has improved vastly due to the technological advancements and economic investments. The main strength of this argument is that the potential gains for the region given the constructions of the Pink Lake Development Plan can be clearly laid out. Namely, such develop would foster tremendous economic growth as it would increase the amount of infrastructure investment locally which could spill over to the region. Secondly, it has huge potential for job creation at least during construction. It is easy to make the argument that something is better than nothing even if development also has negative consequences.

    One of the arguments of the socialists (which were also brought up by other groups) is that the project would not bring any economic and social benefits to the local people and that instead, given its westernized design, it would erase their cultural heritage. I think this is a common misconception based on an assumption that local people could not possibly want westernized development projects. Not only can local non-western society actually desire western style development but may actually be the ones pushing for large development projects as they see the potential for job creation. More often than not, such development projects can have detrimental impact for local communities, but immediate discounting community agency in these process is reflected on western bias as well.

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