FERNANDO ALCOFORADO, sistema economico de um pais, global education magazine

Fernando Alcoforado 

Member of the Bahia Academy of Education (Brazil). Engineer and Doctor of Territorial Planning and Regional Development from the University of Barcelona (Spain).

e-mail: falcoforado@uol.com.br



This article aims to demonstrate that sustainable development is a requirement for the survival of humanity because it faces two major threats. One of them is represented by the general crisis of the world capitalist system that tends to drive the world economy into depression. Another threat is represented by the depletion of natural resources of the planet, the uncontrolled growth of cities and the catastrophic global climate change.

Keywords: sustainable development, the threat of global economic crisis, the threat of depletion of natural resources, the threat of uncontrolled growth of cities, the threat of global climate change.




Este artigo tem como objetivo demonstrar que o desenvolvimento sustentável é um requisito para a sobrevivência da humanidade, pois enfrenta duas grandes ameaças. Uma delas é representada pela crise geral do sistema capitalista mundial, que tende a levar a economia mundial à depressão. Outra ameaça é representada pelo esgotamento dos recursos naturais do planeta, o crescimento descontrolado das cidades e a mudança climática catastrófica global.

Palavras chaves: Desenvolvimento sustentável, A ameaça da crise econômica global, A ameaça do esgotamento dos recursos naturais, a ameaça do crescimento incontrolável das cidades, a ameaça da mudança climática global.


  1. Introduction

Sustainable development is a requirement for the survival of humanity because the era, in which we live, mankind is facing two major threats. One of them, of an economic nature, is represented by the general crisis of the world capitalist system that tends to drive the world economy to depression with the failure of governments, business bankruptcies, mass unemployment and even the outbreak of civil wars and new world conflagration as has occurred in the twentieth century with the 1st and 2nd World War. Another threat, environmental, is represented by the depletion of natural resources of the planet, the uncontrolled growth of cities and the catastrophic global climate change that tends to produce serious impact on economic activities and increased social problems of mankind.

To avoid the catastrophic future that is pronounced for the humanity of the resulting economic and environmental threats, it is essential to have the commitment of governments, public and private productive sector and individuals with the model of sustainable development. This means that social and environmental responsibility must be assumed by governments, companies and individuals. To succeed, the struggle for sustainable development must rely on the decisive participation of youth who would be the primary beneficiary of a future world free of barbarism that would result in maintaining the current development model.

2. The threat of global economic crisis

Eric Hobsbawm says that again, we face a fundamental crisis of capitalism as occurred in 1873 and 1929. Most economists believed that the free market would have a maximum economic growth, but also would provide a maximum welfare for the whole population and that always rationally solve the problems that it creates. It seems unbelievable today, but the fact is that most economists believed about that over 30 years [HOBSBAWM, Eric. En la tercera crisis (The third crisis). Interview with Eric J. Hobsbawm. Magazine “El Viejo Topo” availableon website <www.elviejotopo.com>, 2009].

With the outbreak of the crisis in 2008, the governments of capitalist countries had to intervene as the 1930s of the twentieth century, which at the time did not have immediate success, but do not know how to save the system of generalized economic debacle is ongoing. According to Hobsbawm (2009), to be a shift towards a new global economy will take a long time. Macabre, in the 1930s of the twentieth century, there was already a program for the solution of the crisis: the preparation of war. The global economic crisis that was installed in 1929 only ended with the outbreak of World War 2. Today, humanity will have to face a new world conflagration to save the world capitalist system?

The current crisis is worse than that of 1929-1933, because it is absolutely global. The international financial system no longer works. One indisputable fact is that the Washington Consensus is dead and depression will last for many years. There is no going back to the absolute market that ruled the last 40 years, since the 1970s, according to Hobsbawm. The global crisis that began in 2008 is, to a market economy, which was equivalent to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Moreover, this depression can lead, according to Hobsbawm, a new world system. We have to redesign everything toward the future.

The world economy goes to depression swiftly because the United States, European Union and China have nowadays economic performance that calls into question the global economic recovery. Besides the deep crisis affecting the European Union, the United States did not show signs of recovery with high unemployment that is occurring there and China shows signs of slowdown. Hangs in the air a syndrome economic disintegration. This is the current unbearable debt of sovereign states in Europe and the United States. The Brazil that was immune to the effects of the global crisis of 2008 shows at present signs of economic deterioration characterized by low GDP growth and the return of inflation, which could mean the existence of a process of economic stagnation with inflation (stagflation).

3. The threat of depletion of the planet’s natural resources

All available data point in the sense that the Earth is now reaching its limits in the use of its natural resources. One of these data concerns the ecological footprint that is a good way to measure the impact of human beings on planet Earth. The ecological footprint is a methodology used to measure the amounts of land and water (in terms of global hectares – gha) that would be needed to support domestic consumption. The ecological footprint is a calculation of what each person, every country and ultimately the world’s population consumes natural resources. The measurement is made in hectares, and six categories are evaluated: farmland, pastures, forests, fishing areas, carbon demands and land for the construction of buildings.

Whereas five types of surface (cultivated areas, pastures, forests, fisheries and built environment), planet Earth has approximately 13.4 billion global hectares (gha) of biologically productive land and water according to 2010 data from the Global Footprint Network and humanity’s ecological footprint reached the milestone of 2.7 global hectares (gha) per person in 2007 for a world population of 6.7 billion people on the same date (according to the UN) [See Article A terra no limite(Earth in the limit)by José Eustáquio Diniz Alves available on the website <http://planetasustentavel.abril.com.br/noticia/ambiente/terra-limite-humanidade-recursos-naturais-planeta-situacao-sustentavel-637804.shtml>].

With humanity’s ecological footprint of 2.7 global hectares (gha) per person means to say that to sustain the current population on Earth of 7 billion people would take 18.9 billion gha (2.7 gha x 7 billion people) which is higher than the 13.4 billion global hectares (gha) of biologically productive land and water on Earth, a fact that indicates that already exceeded the regenerative capacity of the planet in the average level of current world consumption. Today, due to the current rate of consumption, the demand for natural resources exceeds 41% spare capacity of the Earth. If the escalation of this demand continues at this rate, by 2030, with an estimated global population of 10 billion people, two Earths will be needed to satisfy it. It should be noted that from 2050, when the world population will exceed 10 billion people, planet Earth cannot resist such demands on natural resources.

Currently, over 80% of the world population lives in countries that use more resources than their own ecosystems can renew. The core capitalist countries (EU, USA and Japan), ecological debtors, have exhausted their own resources and must import them. In the survey of the Global Footprint Network, the Japanese consume 7.1 times more than they have and would need four Italys to supply the Italians. The consumption pattern of developed countries disrupts this balance. An indisputable fact is that humanity has ever consumes more natural resources than the planet can replenish.

The available data on reserves of mineral resources also point to the effect that the Earth is now reaching its limits. Exhaust estimate of mineral resources of the planet Earth is presented in the article Quando os recursos minerais se esgotarão? (When the mineral resources will be exhausted?), published on the website <http://planetasustentavel.abril.com.br/noticia/ambiente/quando-recursos-minerais-se-esgotarao-648952.shtml>, based on information from the US Geological Survey, the US government agency responsible for geological research that crossed information on the annual consumption, mineral reserves available on the planet and its predictable extinction: 1) Platinum (use in surgical materials) – Extinction by 2049; 2) Silver (use in the manufacture of mirrors and cutlery) – Extinction in 2016; 3) Copper (use in wire and cable and air conditioning ducts) – Extinction in 2027; 4) Antimony (use in remote controls and other materials to increase strength) – Extinction 2020; 5) Lithium (use in cell phone batteries, laptops and video games) – Extinction in 2053; 6) Phosphorus (use in agricultural fertilizers) – Extinction in 2149; 7) Uranium (use for electric power generation) – Extinction in 2026; 8) Indian (use in smartphones and tablets touch screen screens) – Extinction in 2020; 9) Tantalum (use in cameras lenses) – Extinction in 2027; 10) Nickel (use in metal alloy coating, electronics such as cell phones) – Extinction in 2064; 11) Tin (use in coating metal alloys, such as those used in the soft drink cans) – Extinction 2024; 12) Lead (use in car batteries and trucks and welds and bearings) – Extinction in 2015; 13) Gold (use as jewelry and computer microchips) – Extinction in 2043; 14) Zinc (use to cover alloys, preventing rust that destroy objects like coins) – Extinction in 2041.

For these reasons many of planet Earth minerals are coming to an end, which may stop the use of various technologies currently used. As for oil, will last 40 years according to data presented on the website <http://institutoparacleto.org/2013/05/23/o-futuro-do-petroleo/>. Natural gas has reserves that can ensure your production up to 60 years according to the website <http://exame.abril.com.br/economia/noticias/os-10-paises-com-as-maiores-reservas-de-gas-natural-do-mundo>. Coal, in turn, has enough reserves to last 250 years according to the website data <http://carvaomineral.blogspot.com.br/2006/09/reservas-de-carvo-no-mundo.html>. The shale gas in recent exploration in the United States, that could meet the domestic demand of the country for natural gas at current levels of consumption for over 100 years, is extremely negative for the environment because it generates half the carbon emissions from coal, and pollutes the sheets underground aquifers.

All that has just been described on the duration of fossil fuel reserves indicates that, given the longevity of coal, it would be the source of energy to be used in the future when other fossil fuels are depleted, a fact that would aggravate the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. Humanity must become aware of the urgent need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources to avoid the catastrophic scenario of using coal as an energy source as well as to replace the current model of development for sustainable development, which, by reverse logistics, with the reuse, recovery and recycling of materials, thus reaching the so-called closed production cycle, could delay the exhaustion of natural resources of the planet Earth.

4. The threat of uncontrolled growth of cities

Most cities around the world grow disorderly, chaotically. The city became the main habitat of mankind. For the first time in human history, more than half of the population is living in cities. This number, 3.3 billion people, should surpass the 5 billion in 2030. In the early twentieth century the urban population did not exceed 220 million people. Access to employment, services, public facilities and greater economic and social welfare is its greatest attraction for all who were attending to the cities. Much of the global environmental problems originate in the cities which makes hardly can achieve sustainability at the global level without making them sustainable (BEAUJEU-GARNIER. J. Geografia Urbana (Urban Geography). Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1980).

It is in cities that the social, economic and environmental sustainable development converge more intensely, making it become necessary to be thought out, planned and managed in accordance with sustainable development model that aims to meet the current needs of the Earth population without compromising its natural resources, bequeathing them to future generations. This means that the model of sustainable development in cities should be adopted aimed at aligning the economic and social factors with the environment. What makes a sustainable city? Is the right to urban land, housing, environmental sanitation, the urban infrastructure, transport and public services, work and leisure, for current and future generations.

Sustainable cities are cities that have a policy of economic and social development harmonized with the natural and built environment. Sustainable cities have as a guideline the planning and control of land use in order to prevent degradation of natural resources. A sustainable city should have clear policies and comprehensive sanitation, waste collection and treatment, water management, with the collection, treatment, reuse and economy; transportation systems that favor mass transit quality and safety; actions that preserve and expand green areas and use of clean and renewable energy, and finally, public administration transparent and shared with civil society organizations.

In the current era in which the problems of global warming can lead to planetary catastrophe, every city has to have a plan for adapting to climate change, especially thosesubject toextreme events. Coastal cities, for example, must have predictable planning against rising sea levels, should worry about landslides on slopes, flooding, etc. resulting from inclement rains. Anyway, should have flexibility and adaptability to new climatic requirements. It´s necessary to redesign the urban growth of cities in order to integrate it with the natural environment recover its beaches and its rivers now quite committed to the discharge of sewage, so that the city does not receive a hostile response of the natural environment.

The master plans for urban development of cities should revitalize its old center with the recovery of the building in a state of ruination and their playgrounds to become peaceful living spaces and comfortable for its inhabitants, providing all local good urban infrastructure compatible to the needs of its population and promote the formation and maintenance of self-contained neighborhoods to avoid disorderly urban expansion of its territory.

The master plans for urban development should give priority to urban development and intensification within the built environment and the recovery of degraded environments. Risk areas unduly occupied by low-income populations should be subject tourbanization projects or, if not possible, to promote the relocation of its inhabitants with the construction of new housing units. They are all large projects that require substantial resources generating activities that create jobs, income and well-being for the population.

Thedevelopment planningof cities, the spatial distribution of population and economic activities of the municipality and the territory under its influence should avoid and correct the distortions of urban growth and its negative effects on the environment. In every city should be adopted a long-term strategic planning based on sustainable development.

5. The threat of global climate change

Global climate change will occur as a result of global warming resulting from the greenhouse effect caused by the retention of heat in the lower atmosphere of the Earth caused by the concentration of gases of various kinds. The Earth receives radiation emitted by the sun that is absorbed by the land surface warming. Much of this radiation is returned to the space and the other part is absorbed by the layer of gas surrounding atmosphere causing the greenhouse effect. It is due to this natural phenomenon, the greenhouse effect, that we have an average temperature of the Earth in the range of 15 º C. Without this phenomenon, the planet’s average temperature would be -18 ºC (ALCOFORADO, Fernando. Aquecimento global e catastrophe planetária (Global warming and planetary catastrophe). Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo: Viena Gráfica e Editora, 2010).

Greenhouse gases (which prevent dispersal of heat generated by the planet’s surface, after this receiving solar radiation) of higher concentration on Earth are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH 4), nitrous oxide (N2O), Compounds of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and water vapor (H2O). Most of them are from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and derivatives), forests and agriculture. The greenhouse gases absorb some infrared radiation emitted by the surface of the Earth and in turn radiate the absorbed energy back to the surface. As a result, the surface of the Earth receives almost twice as much energy from the atmosphere than it receives from the Sun and the surface is about 30 ° C warmer than it would be without the presence of greenhouse gases.

To keep climate balance, planet Earth needs to receive the same amount of energy that sends back into space. If an imbalance occurs for some reason, the globe heats or cools until the temperature reached again, the exact measure for correct exchange of heat. The natural climate balance was disrupted by the Industrial Revolution. Since the nineteenth century, the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air increased by 30%, doubled the methane and nitrous oxide have risen 15%. Global warming is produced by human activity (anthropogenic) on the planet and also by natural processes such as decomposition of organic matter and volcanic eruptions, which produce ten times more gas than man. For ages, the natural processes alone ensured the maintenance of the greenhouse effect, without which life would not be possible on Earth. The global warming gases derived from human activity are produced by fossil fuels used in cars, in industry and in power plants, the agricultural production and the burning forests.

If nothing is done to reverse global warming, the average temperature of the Earth should evolve from 15 ºC to 19 ºC in 2100. Taking into account the findings of numerous studies related to global warming, if nothing is done to reverse current trends, their consequences are as follows:

• 2 to 4.5 °C is lifting range that must suffer the global average temperature by the end of this century according to estimates made by the UN IPCC-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

• The polar ice cap will completely disappear within 100 years. This will cause the end of ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean, which will cause the climate becomes colder generating the great contradiction that warming also cools.

• By 2100, sea levels could rise from 1 to 7 meters if there is the melting of the poles, the ridges and Greenland.

• 40% of the trees in the Amazon may disappear before the end of the century if temperatures rise 2-3 degrees.

• Tropical forests will be replaced by savannas in regions where there is a reduction of groundwater.

• The weather will be colder in the northern hemisphere only. For the rest of the world average temperature will rise and droughts and rainfall will change across the planet.

• From 9 to 58% of species on land and at sea will be extinct in the coming decades, according to different assumptions.

• About 20% to 30% of all species face a “high risk of extinction” if average global temperatures rise another 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius compared to 1990 levels. This could happen by 2050.

• The greenhouse will help to reduce rainfall in some areas of the planet causing them to occur at higher temperatures and higher evaporation.

• Rainfall should increase by about 20% in the higher latitudes.

• Several areas of the globe may be flooded because of the overabundance of rainfall, resulting in extensive flooding.

• 2,000 square kilometers will turn into desert due to lack of rains.

• The river flows may decrease by 50% or more may some of them dry completely.

• Important groundwater could be severely reduced, making the irrigation wells dry.

• Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making the oceans more acidic. This weakens corals, sea nurseries, and plankton, the base of the underwater food chain.

• Coral reefs are likely to suffer strong declines.

• Mangroves salty marshland and forests may disappear with increasing sea levels.

• The Arctic due to higher heating, the small island states in the Pacific with the increase in sea level, the area south of the Sahara in Africa due to drought and densely populated river deltas in Asia because of flooding, will suffer enough with climate change.

6. The imperative of sustainable development

The two threats, economic and environmental, tend to produce a real crisis of humanity that makes becomes an imperative the construction around the world of a new society different from the current that act interdependently with common goals and rational in every country and on a global scale without which it may be put into question the survival of humans and life on Earth. With the current model of development will beinevitable the degradation of the environment of the planet with the depletion of its natural resources, the uncontrolled growth of cities and the catastrophic global climate change.

For these reasons, we are facing a critical moment in Earth’s history and humanity, at a time when it must choose the direction to be given to its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, humanity faces, while great peril and great promise with regard to their future. We must recognize that in the midst of the magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace to avoid barbarism that would result in the maintenance of the current economic model. To reach this purpose, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to each other, with the continuity of life on the planet and to future generations.

For all these reasons it becomes imperative to establish a new economic model called “sustainable development” which is based on forms and processes which, when used, does not undermine the integrity of the environment on which they depend. The new society would have to be built to be sustainable economically, socially and environmentally. The concept of sustainability has become a key element in the global movement, crucial to find viable solutions to solve major world problems, relying on the theory that a sustainable society is one that meets the needs of the present generation without diminishing the possibilities of future generations to meet them.

How to build a sustainable society? This is a task that concerns governments, entrepreneurs and individuals from all countries. Governments compete to adopt development policies that reconcile the economic, social and environmental concerns in national territory and seek to conclude a global social contract focused on sustainable development on a global scale. Entrepreneurs compete to adopt corporate policy of environmental responsibility in productive activities. Individuals compete consciously act in defense of the environment by requiring governments and companies implementing sustainable development policies and collaborate with employers in workplaces in implementing policies of corporate social and environmental responsibility. To succeed, the struggle for sustainable development must rely on the decisive participation of youth who would be the primary beneficiary of a future world free of barbarism that would result in maintaining the current development model.


ALCOFORADO, Fernando. Aquecimento global e catástrofe planetária (Global warming and planetary catastrophe). Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo: Viena Gráfica e Editora, 2010.

ALVES, José Eustáquio Diniz.A terra no limite(Earth in the limit). Available on the website <http://planetasustentavel.abril.com.br/noticia/ambiente/terra-limite-humanidade-recursos-naturais-planeta-situacao-sustentavel-637804.shtml>].

BEAUJEU-GARNIER. J. Geografia Urbana (Urban geography). Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1980.

HOBSBAWM, Eric. En la tercera crisis (The third crisis). Interview with Eric J. Hobsbawm. Magazine “El Viejo Topo” availableon website <www.elviejotopo.com>, 2009.

Fernando Alcoforado, member of the Bahia Academy of Education, engineer and doctor of Territorial Planning and Regional Development from the University of Barcelona, ​​a university professor and consultant in strategic planning, business planning, regional planning and planning of energy systems, is the author of Globalização (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 1997), De Collor a FHC- O Brasil e a Nova (Des)ordem Mundial (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 1998), Um Projeto para o Brasil (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 2000), Os condicionantes do desenvolvimento do Estado da Bahia(Tese de doutorado. Universidade de Barcelona, http://www.tesisenred.net/handle/10803/1944, 2003), Globalização e Desenvolvimento (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 2006), Bahia- Desenvolvimento do Século XVI ao Século XX e Objetivos Estratégicos na Era Contemporânea (EGBA, Salvador, 2008), The Necessary Conditions of the Economic and Social Development-The Case of the State of Bahia (VDM Verlag Dr. Muller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. KG, Saarbrücken, Germany, 2010), Aquecimento Global e Catástrofe Planetária (P&A Gráfica e Editora, Salvador, 2010), Amazônia Sustentável- Para o progresso do Brasil e combate ao aquecimento global (Viena- Editora e Gráfica, Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, São Paulo, 2011), Os Fatores Condicionantes do Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2012) and Energia no Mundo e no Brasil (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2015).

This article was published on 5th December 2015, for the International VolunteerDay at Global Education Magazine.

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