Sustainable Development

Sustainable development has been characterized as "ongoing improvement of the world system according to a legitimately constructed social preference relation" ("The Pursuit of Sustainable Development as a Duty of States Under International Law) or "keeping things from getting worse and making things better".  This is a comprehensive concept. It includes the familiar developmental, economic and environmental priorities and anything else that matter
  • equitableness of society (?what about extreme and increasing inequality?)
  • legitimacy of the social choice mechanism (?does insecure computerized voting threaten democracy?)
  • national security (preserving core values like valuing interests of others, ending genocide)
  • endowment management / taxation policy of educational institutions and not-for-profits
  • societal (including corporate!) culture of service (examples of the legacy of United States corporate culture include historic Bell Labs, AEP, Hewlett-Packard, IBM)
  • the aesthetic of safeguarding for all the heritage of the planet - not least its biodiversity in the face of an anthropogenic extinction crisis.

System dynamics  (e.g., "World Dynamics" by Jay Forrester) is relevant to sustainable development, because it can progressively help us model the world. The world is a complex system, in the sense of having variable-delay feedback loops and, from various points of view, random influences.  Counter-intuitively, good choices can seem bad, and bad choices compelling.  Agendas can gravitate toward choices with relatively little effect.  Conversely, sustainable development is relevant to system dynamics, by pushing it to incorporate powerful extensions.