While Europe and the U.S. accomplished their own levels of environmental degradation over centuries, already densely populated Asia, with its lightning-speed economic development, natural resource-dependent economies, and globalization of trade, is currently playing out this environmental version of unsustainable growth in fast forward, and its rich biodiversity is paying the price. With change now occurring so rapidly, both globally and in Asia, some trends now appearing in the distance may all too soon become serious environmental threats. Identifying these trends and the broader, longer-term drivers giving rise to them is key to protecting Asia’s environment and its future.
Starting in October 2008, the China Environment Forum and the Environmental Change and Security Program were charged by the U.S. Agency for International Development with investigating Asia's most serious environmental challenges. CEF and ECSP held 9 roundtables with experts, and conducted interviews and research that helped create this report, focused mainly on Southeast Asia, that identifies global trends impacting the environment, and highlights opportunities for USAID and other donors to improve environmental protection. The most important conclusion to be drawn from the analysis is the urgent need for environmental sustainability—for sustainable use, sustainable consumption, sustainable development—in ways that do not enrich current generations at the expense of future ones.