Webinar | State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?

Event Date: 
November 13, 2013 - 11:00am
ISSP Webinar Platform United States

Webinar | State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?

The word “sustainable” has come to be all but meaningless, generally used to connote a practice or product that is slightly less environmentally damaging than the conventional alternatives. This webinar, based on the 2013 edition of Worldwatch Institute’s flagship annual report, State of the World (subtitled Is Sustainability Still Possible?), will aim to restore the word to its original environmental meaning. The key question is can sustainability be shown to have a scientific foundation? And if so, what do theory and current data say about the sustainability of our global civilization?


November Webinar, Wednesday 11/13/13 at 11:00 AM Pacific Time-USA

The Sustainability Metric

We'll first discuss how we can measure sustainability, current data trends and concepts, and what they say about how we live on the planet. Is sustainability primarily a matter of developing a “green” economy or otherwise altering economic processes—or is more than economics at issue? What does true sustainability imply for individual lifestyles? What is at stake if we pursue unsustainable growth and development?

Getting to True Sustainability

With the limits better understood, how can we get to a truly sustainable society? Is geoengineering the only option left? Can we instead re-engineer our cultures? Can we create truly sustainable design and goods? Will major shifts in governance at all scales be necessary? How about population management? This section will sample some of the many policies and perspectives already developed over the last three decades that could build a sustainable society within planetary boundaries.

Open in Case of Emergency

At the moment, sustainability seems technically within our grasp but politically beyond it. Is collapse inevitable? Crucial choices loom ahead: Will we burn the tar sands? All the coal in the ground? Shale gas? The oil under the Arctic? What can we preserve of our most important cultural, economic, and social achievements as the Earth changes? And how can we limit human suffering during this global ecological transition?

Webinar participants should come away with a good sense of what the best data say about the sustainability of the current global economy and some thoughtful ideas about how humanity should respond if it fails in comprehensively implementing the many well-known options for achieving sustainability.



Erik Assadourian is a Senior Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute where he has studied cultural change, consumerism, degrowth, ecological ethics, corporate responsibility, and sustainable communities over the past 10 years. Erik is co-director of State of the World 2013 and directed State of the World 2010, and co-directed the 2005 and 2012 editions.

Erik also directs the Transforming Cultures project at Worldwatch, which explores innovative new ways to intentionally and proactively transform cultural norms so that living sustainably feels as natural as living as a consumer feels today. Most recently, through this project, Erik co-designed an eco-educational scenario for the popular board game Settlers of Catan, Catan: Oil Springs, which he hopes will help players grapple personally with climate change, the tragedy of the commons, and the difficulties of continued growth in a finite system.


Robert Engelman is President of the Worldwatch Institute, a globally focused environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C. Bob originally joined Worldwatch as Vice President for Programs and was named President in 2011. Prior to joining Worldwatch, Bob was Vice President for Research at Population Action International, a policy research and advocacy group in Washington, and directed its program on population and the environment. He has written extensively on population's connections to environmental change, economic growth, and civil conflict.

A former newspaper reporter specializing in science and the environment, Bob was founding secretary of the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of the 2008 book More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want.

Phone: 206 851 4234