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Former prime minister visits USF

If you have ever wondered what sort of environmental and economic state we are creating and consequently, leaving behind for the next generation to deal with, that is exactly what many international commissions, politicians and advocates worldwide have been asking for decades.

The concept is referred to as sustainable development and the basic idea is to try to meet the present needs of nations without decreasing the likelihood that future generations’ needs will be met.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, a pioneer in sustainable development, will be visiting the USF campus today to offer her expert opinion on the subject.

Born in Norway, Brundtland has had a long, diverse and prosperous career in many aspects of health care and policy development, and as an environmentalist. Brundtland received her doctorate from the University of Oslo in 1963 and her master’s degree in public health from Harvard University in 1965. Following her education, she worked as a physician and eventually ended up in politics. She served as Norway’s minister of the environment from 1974 to 1979. In 1981, Brundtland was the first female prime minister and the youngest person ever appointed in Norway’s history, and she served as the prime minister of Norway for over 10 years. She has also participated in many international committees and summits focused on worldwide environmental issues. From 1998 to 2003 Brundtland was appointed the director-general of the World Health Organization.

Brundtland will be delivering a lecture, sponsored by the University Lecture Series and the USF Globalization Research Center entitled “Globalization, Health and Economic Development” at 7 p.m. in the Special Events Center. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Giving a brief explanation of the title, Brundtland said, “These issues are interlinked whether you look at it from the environment perspective, the health or the economic perspective. There is really an increased need for global cooperation and global leadership to make things happen.

“There has to be changes in the patterns of production and consumption,” Brundtland said. “I think the lack of real cooperation to solve common problems in a more coordinated way, in a more responsible way, across borders, is the basic problem.”

In regard to environmental issues, Brundtland pointed out that the issue of energy was one of the most crucial issues. “Because of the key role of energy in human societies, in production and consumption, the question of cleaner energy technologies is a crucial one because unless we fight it, unless we do it, unless we invest in it, then we will all suffocate from the consequences of climate change and other consequences of wrong energy use.”

A nation’s economic status can dictate in some cases how close to or how far from sustainable development it is.

“It is important to be aware that where poverty prevails people will undermine their own future just because of lack of alternatives,” Brundtland said. “Unless we’re able to help poorer countries overcome poverty it will continue in a downward spiral.”

On the other hand, Brundtland pointed out that, “Unless you see to it that you lower the use of raw materials and the loss or waste in your economic system, there is no way to combine a good environment with a good economy.”

The economy that is most conducive to sustainable development needs “to be an economic system that takes into consideration the cost of the consequences to the environment from the production and consumption in a society,” Brundtland explained.

As far as the state of a nation’s general health goes, Brundtland suggested that, “We need to invest in people. Unless we invest in people, meaning in their health and education, people will not be able to lead productive lives and contribute to their economy.”