The Cocoyoc Declaration A Proclamation of Sustainable Development
The Cocoyoc Declaration was drafted by Barbara Ward on October 23, 1974.
It attempted to synthesize the theories of environmental sustainability and economic development.
The Declaration took place during Founex II, a conference aiming to synthesize the United Nations’ approach to development and sustainability.
The foundation of modern Western environmentalism emerged in the study of European forestry and botany.
Men such as Carl von Linne and John Ray studied the activity of the natural environment seeking to understand the complexities of ecosystems.
American environmentalism was a progression of this scientific trend however a split between conservationist and preservationist environmentalism became more prominent.
Wealthy forester Gifford Pinchot is credited as the American exponent of conservationism, he argued that forests and ecosystems must be managed by government policy in order to produce sustained yields which would renew in the long term.
This presents a synthesis of American market economics and environmental conservationism. The precursor of sustainable development.
Colonization and Resource Extraction
The era of colonization altered the face of the global ecosystem, the Southern hemisphere became the breadbasket of the North.
Colonial powers such as Spain, Britain, Holland and France extracted raw materials from Africa, Asia and Latin America beginning in the 16 th Century.
European colonialists subjugated the inhabitants of these regions through the imposition of imperial power.
Europeans migrated to these new regions developing settler communities and devised resource extraction economies across the globe.
The untouched mineral and agricultural wealth of the Southern hemisphere was funneled into the hands of European monarchs consolidating the dominance of Western civilization.
The unregulated extraction of resources laid waste to the sustainability of ecosystems in the Southern hemisphere.
In order to combat this, the management of exotic ecologies was conducted in order to preserve the resources which the Crown sought to profit from.
Various imperial expeditions led to the destruction and pillaging of diverse ecosystems.
South Africa began to be colonized by Britain in 1652, this brought the unregulated clearing of forests and massacre of wildlife until environmental legislation was introduced in the 19 th Century.
The British empire adopted conservation strategies for its colonies through legislation such as the Indian Forest Act of 1865 which extracted sustainable yields as to limit the depletion of renewable resources.
The Development of Underdevelopment
Following the era of colonialism former colonies gained their independence and empires dissolved.
By the early 20 th Century most of the globe was made up of an array of independent states.
The post-colonial world was marked by a large economic divide across Northern and Southern lines.
Europe and the settler nations of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand developed self sustaining internal markets which led to industrialization and an improvement of living standards.
In contrast, the underdeveloped regions of the world were marked by single export economies dependant on trade with the developed world.
The development of the West was inverse to the underdevelopment of the third world.
The Western model of development occurred as a result of industrialization and organizational modes of mass production.
The United States became the largest economy and most powerful state following WWII.
Industrialization brought about a mass increase in living standards across the developed regions of the globe.
The consumption and production for goods increased throughout the 19 th and 20 th Centuries.
The overconsumption of goods began to take a negative toll on the environment.
By the 1960s, environmentalism became a point of popular focus among the developed world.
The harmful effects of industrialization had left a plethora of harmful repercussions on ecosystems.
Carbon emissions from automobiles and coal energy plants led to bouts of acid rain in major metropolitan centers.
DDT and an assortment of other pesticides began to seep into rivers and lakes harming wildlife all over the globe.
Likewise Thomas Malthus theories of population growth and resource depletion became an overriding concern as populations began a dramatic intensification in Asia.
Population Growth in Human History
Human population and resource capacity was elaborated upon during the Stockholm Conference of 1972.
Delegates from over 100 countries shared their thoughts on concerns over the rise in population and the earth’s maximum sustainable yield.
While Western countries shared a common goal during the conference, delegates from underdeveloped states challenged the conference fundamental principle.
States within the underdeveloped world were struggling to further industrialization and follow the Western model of economic development.
These regions argued that they did not have the economic capacity to manage conservation efforts and control their population growth rates.
Starvation, conflict and disease weakened their political and societal stability.
Discrepancies of Development and Conservation
The Western model of environmentalism was based upon life in a developed society.
It ignored the enormous differences which separated the Northern and Southern hemispheres of the globe.
American Home Indian Home
The Antecedents of the Cocoyoc Declaration
The Stockholm Conference blindly espoused environmental reforms and was derided by the underdeveloped world.
Barbara Ward, a British economist specializing in third world development studies espoused these contradictory forces in ‘Only One Earth’ published in 1972.
The economist sympathized with the complicated trap of poverty facing underdeveloped states as population growth soared ahead of efforts to industrialize leading to mass unemployment and greater poverty.
Likewise Ward argued that underdeveloped countries were bound by the obligations of the international economy as they depended upon trade for the continual subsistence of their growing populations.
Founex II was held in Cocoyoc, Mexico as a means to discuss the relationship between the environment and development.
Attendees included the chairman of the UN Committee for Development Planning Gamani Correa and under-secretary general of the UN, Maurice Strong.
During the conference the delegates and UN members attempted to reconcile the grievances between first world environmentalists and post-colonial leaders as to synthesize a viable path to sustainable development.
The Cocoyoc Declaration espoused an appeal towards co-operation and human rights.
It argued that most of the world had yet to escape from the legacy of colonialism as three quarters of the world’s income are in the hands of 25% of its population.
The Declaration derided the emergence of dual societies in which feudal poverty coexists amid elite luxury due to repressive political regimes continuing the colonial model.
The notion of development was thus problematic, industrialization and economic growth did little to alleviate the problems of underdevelopment.
Free market economics only exacerbated the division between rich and poor in post colonial societies.
Demands of Cocoyoc
A reorientation of development theory was necessary, it was essential to alter the paradigm of having to “catch up” to the West.
Development is related to basic human necessities;:sustenance, education, health and opportunity.
A structural reformation of societal relations was necessary to ensure the long term development of the post colonial world.
In order to develop, these societies were bound to preserve their ecosystems and form sustainable modes of growth by ensuring the long term viability of their environments.
The Declaration called for reformations in economics, education, and the United Nations itself so as to synthesize the narratives of sustainability and global development.
While the idealized notions of the Cocoyoc Declaration promised a positive future it achieved few practical results.
Many underdeveloped countries attempted to review or create environmental policies in the 1970s however they found little success.
Many of these countries lacked the expertise and capital to fund these projects, likewise they were not seen favourably by international investors.
Kenya devised 14 separate pieces of environmental legislation regarding natural resources from 1979-1983 however they were very rarely applied.
Likewise India proposed an array of environmental protection laws and faced the tragic methyl-isocyanate gas leak in a Union Carbide pesticide plant in 1984.
The leak led to the death of roughly 2,500 people and spoke the the inefficacy of the country’s environmental regulations.
Diverse Forms of Development
The Cocoyoc Declaration was not successful in changing the systemic problems of underdevelopment and overconsumption.
However, it was successful in challenging the overriding notion of a singular developmental model.
The United Nations recognized publically that this was not development.
The End Edited, written by Phil Klippenstein-Jimenez Music composed and performed by Phil Klippenstein-Jimenez