Sustainable Territories

A detail of the Mexican Map by Miguel Covarrubias, Mexico, Popular Cultures Museum

The verb sustain is a word that means to keep in existence, to maintain. Other definitions are: to supply with nourishment, to support from below and to keep from falling or sinking. Thus, the vast spectrum of sustainability is not only a concept related to ecology or environmental sciences but it reaches human, social and economic spheres. As Harlem Brundtland has defined it, a sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The satisfaction of the essential human needs (food, clothing, shelter, jobs) means the control, exploitation and management of raw materials and energy throughout specific habitats. For Brundtland a sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.

Thus, the pursuit of sustainability in the human-made habitats has an intrinsic relationship with human, social and economic authority over the land, therefore over the command of the artificial and biological world. The concepts of power and authority are key elements in understanding the human mandate of a territory. Edward Said wrote: “There is nothing mysterious or natural about authority. It is formed, irradiated, disseminated; it is instrumental, it is persuasive; it has status, it establishes canons of taste and value; it is it is virtually indistinguishable from certain ideas it dignifies as true, and from traditions, perceptions, and judgments it forms, transmits, reproduces. Above all, authority can, indeed must, be analyzed.” The correlation between sustainability and power has to be analyzed when studying the representations, attitudes and values regarding the conservation of nature and the environmental quality.


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