The RST asked some of the key sustainability figures to reflect on the developments in their fields: reflecting on the lessons of the past so as to inform strategy and action in the future.


Perspectives on sustainable development

Waste collecting on the side of a river

CSE was set up in 1980 in New Delhi as an institution that would work on topical issues of sustainable development, looking at the linkages between science, technology, and environment. The objective was to create public consciousness on the need for sustainable development, and influence public policies, as Sunita Narain describes.

Sunita Narain's picture

Sunita Narain has been with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) since 1982.

Bill Adams looks at development in the field of biodiversity conservation, an area where success stories are often rivalled with news of extinctions, but also an area where tackling isolated issues of protection has moved to an understanding of biodiversity's integral importance to sustainable development.

Bill Adams's picture

Bill Adams holds the Moran Professor of Conservation and Development in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge.

As the world population increases and moves into cities, our human settlements may endanger the poor or present the solutions for sustainability. Diane Diacon explains that we have the solutions but we need to start applying them.

Diane Diacon's picture

Diane Diacon is an independent researcher, focussing on scaling of successful housing practices.

Green parties have been gathering political power since their early days in the 1970s. They're now becoming a coordinated diaspora, as Sara Parkin describes.

Sara Parkin's picture

Sara Parkin founded Forum for the Future, along with Jonathon Porritt and Paul Ekins (who is currently Professor of Energy and Environment Policy...

Water dripping from leaf

Water sustainability - both problems and solutions - have generally been seen as local. But when you take a global perspective, you see a new scale of challenge. Dominic Waughrey gives us 10 years to act...

Dominic Waughray's picture

Dominic Waughray is Senior Director and Head of Environment and Sustainability Initiatives for the World Economic Forum; responsible for the World...

In 1961, the year in which WWF was established, the world was a very different  place. Then, around a billion people lived in the world, fewer than half the  number now alive, global average life expectancy was around 30 per cent lower  than today, and air travel was a luxury for the few while mobile phones and the internet were part of science fiction.

Yolanda Kakabadse's picture

Yolanda Kakabadse is WWF’s International President and the former Ecuadorian Minister of Environment.

Mark Halle takes a look at the development the World Trade Centre, and the role that the environment has played within it.

Mark Halle's picture

Mark Halle is Executive Director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Europe.

Walt Patterson looks back at campaigning successes and challenges for energy and sustainable development, and ultimately at the campaigning challenges for climate change.

Walt Patterson's picture

Walt Patterson is Associate Fellow in the Energy, Environment and Development Programme at Chatham House in London, UK, and a Visiting Fellow at...

Ranjendra Pachauri describes how climate change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have brought together a scientific collaboration on a unique scale to influence thought, policy and strategy.

Dr Ranjendra Pachauri's picture

Dr. R.K. Pachauri has been the Chief Executive of TERI since 1981, designated initially as Director and since April 2001 as Director-General.

Crispin Tickell surveys the rampant rise of human population - from being a species to a geological period - and wonders if our size will eventually be our ultimate undoing.

Crispin Tickell's picture

Sir Crispin Tickell has long been a pioneer in linking environmental and in particular climate change to the worlds of politics and business.

Understanding about the harm caused by motor vehicles is widespread, but moving away from cars seems just too difficult. Stephen Joseph looks at some of the whys and the hows of alternatives for travel and transport.

Stephen Joseph's picture

Stephen Joseph has been executive director of Campaign for Better Transport since 1988.

Starting with a motley group of businessmen, academics and scientists meeting in Rome in the 1960s, Ian Johnson looks at how the Club of Rome has influenced global thinking about sustainable development.

Ian Johnson's picture

Ian Johnson is currently Chairman of the Commission for Land Use Change Ecosystems with GLOBE International and CEO of Idea Carbon, a London based...

Looking across perspectives, timelines and discussions, we've pulled out some of the common questions raised for sustainable development and some of the different responses.


Big Questions for sustainable development

The modern-day sustainable development movement has developed principally over the past 50 years. But forecasts today suggest we don't have that long again to overcome perhaps much bigger challenges. So how can we move fast enough?

The challenges of sustainable development are often huge, inter-connected, comprehensive and fundamental. Some practical steps from authors’ perspectives on getting over the sense of futility and making effective change.

One of the characteristics that almost all sustainable development work has in common is working with a variety of different stakeholders. But multi-stakeholder working is complex and hard work: competing agendas, different ideas, managing egos, maintaining relationships... Why not just do it alone?

It's easy to focus on big, hard-hitting targets: corporate strategies, government policies, intergovernmental agreements etc. But often, the big achievements in sustainable development have come from working with ordinary people in extraordinary ways.