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Earth Community Organization (ECO)
the Global Community

George L. De Feis, B.E., M.B.A. (*)
e-mail. Gdefeis@amanet.org
(*) Mr. De Feis is also an adjunct professor of business and statistics at Baruch College (CUNY) (New York, NY), Monroe College (Bronx, NY), and the American Academy of International Management (AAIM) Management School (Pierre, South Dakota).
Please use the following e-mail for the future: gldefeis@aol.com
Paper title:
An insight to Managing the Four-Legged Stool of Sustainable Development: Involve Youth Early

for Discussion Roundtables 3, 7, 8, 15, 22, 25, 28, 36, 40, and 55

Table of Contents

An Insight to Managing the Four-Legged Stool of Sustainable Development: Involve Youth Early

Balancing equity amongst the needs of people, optimal resource utilization, the economy, and the environment is at the heart of sustainable development. This "four-legged stool" needs to be managed well to achieve the objectives of each facet, albeit with compromise and consensus. By only considering the "needs of people," for instance, we may sacrifice tomorrow for today. By only considering "the environment," we may unnecessarily hinder today’s pleasure, while have unneeded excesses tomorrow. When thinking of tomorrow, we need to facilitate the understanding of and "light a fire" under those who will undertake action tomorrow: today’s youth.

Youth programs abound: Delta Sigma Pi, Future Business Leaders of America, Junior Achievement, Junior Chamber International (Jaycees), Operation Enterprise – youth program of the American Management Association, United Nations Youth Unit, and others. It is in these organizations that the sustainable development movement must take hold. Many of these groups embrace a management and business mindset, with overtones of community service. As such, they could be tapped to participate in the much-needed "management" of the sustainable development process.

Whether developing renewable energy sources, protecting endangered species, or preserving rainforests, an important insight for humanity is the capacity of the indomitable human spirit that regularly serves to solve life’s unsolvable problems. In other words, if they are there (i.e., passionate minds), it will be solved. If great minds are motivated, the seemingly insurmountable diversity of interests in sustainable development, can be addressed through an integrated, grassroots, team approach.

The importance of this work is to emphasize the integrated approach necessary to achieve the goals of sustainable development. Too often one facet is ignored or deemed less important than others, and as such the likelihood of overall success is limited. It means that environmentalists, economists, big business, community groups, engineers, and government must assemble together and jointly address the problem. The lack of focus on even one missing leg will cause the stool to lack integrity and ultimately fall. At the present time, this author finds that community groups, engineers, environmentalists, and governments are on-board, but there is a noticeable void in representation by economists and big business – perhaps the result of a booming economy, when big business and economists might just say "don’t bother us now."

Management traditionally includes the activities of planning, organizing, leading and controlling – this is the essence of management, albeit, more easily said than done. The reason is that today’s complex and dynamic business environment – not just the natural environment – but all of the features of one’s (individual’s, organization’s, etc.) external environment, e.g., competitors, consumers, family, government – creates so much uncertainty for each of these management activities, that chaos theory and contingency theory more frequently dictates how management is undertaken.

This paper explores the four diverse interests of the "four-legged stool": needs of people, optimal resource utilization, economy, and environment, and the opportunities to bring management, big business and the economic sector back into the "sustainable development fold." The suggestion here is to make inroads with youth groups, who seem to have a firm infrastructure in-place, and are passionate about any activities they embrace. If they are on-board and "buy-in" to the sustainable development agenda, they will orchestrate plans for its accomplishment. This author notes that it is unlikely that the objectives set forth in Agenda 21 – the blueprint action plan borne of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro – will be achieved without the next generation undertaking an important management role in the planning, organizing, leading and controlling of the four legs supporting the sustainable development stool.

Overviews of some of the major youth programs are provided, as are specific recommendations for approaching said groups, suggested projects, measuring results, etc. As well, the role of government is addressed – "Governments must realize that they can either pay now (i.e., with tax benefits to companies, and therefore lost or decreased current tax revenues) or pay later, in the form of cleanups. Why not pay now?" (De Feis, 1994).


De Feis, George L. Sustainable development issues: Industry, environment, regulations and competition. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 120(2), April 1994. p. 177-182

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