It is essential that societies seek ways of becoming environmentally sustainable and adaptable to unknowable environmental changes, particularly in the climate. This must happen in the context of globalisation. The concept of sustainability is coming to prominence at a time when established structures of government are being questioned and new ways of thinking about governance are being explored.
Globalisation has several dimensions that are relevant to the discussion of environmental change and sustainability. In addition to the widely used economic meaning of the term, political, social or cultural and ecological dimensions of globalisation are drawn out.
Three different views on the relationship between globalisation and the environment can be identified: ‘business learns’ sustainability (in its own self-interest),‘radical break’ with globalisation (and pursuit of sustainable grassroots alternatives), and ‘sustainability steps’ (incremental progress based in partnership but emphasising a role for government). There are empirical examples of each approach (Interface carpets, the Findhorn eco-village, the Forest Stewardship Council).
Comparison of the concepts of government and the more recently prominent term ‘governance’ demonstrates some of the strengths, but also the threats, implicit in a shift to more flexible and open-ended decision-making structures.
New forms of governance imply new ways of practising citizenship: writers now argue for cosmopolitan and ecological citizenship.
Communication and debate will be important if any – or a mix – of these approaches are to thrive, hence the media, and specifically quality web journalism, are a key location for advancing towards sustainability.