By André Silveira
The concept of sustainable development is often seen as a contradiction in terms (i.e. an oxymoron). No form of economic development can be sustained indefinitely, given the inherent limitations of both humans and the ecosystems we depend upon to, for example, access good quality water and food. Economists continue to debate alternatives based on, for example, the concepts of ‘steady state economy’ and ‘degrowth’. Ultimately, I argue, any form of long term development centred on human well-being must safeguard the health of our rivers, aquifers, lakes and reservoirs.
No other sector of economic activity interacts more extensively with water systems than agriculture. In both developed and developing countries, we are witnessing a new wave of agricultural intensification in response to food security concerns associated with a fast expanding global population as well as social inequality. Food insecurity remains a highly complex phenomenon that has been greatly exacerbated by food waste, the production of crops for livestock, energy policies and prices (leading for example to the use of food crops for biofuels), as well as financial speculation.