The most often quoted definition of sustainable development is, development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own need.” It is a process of balancing needs. The needs of humans for economic and social development balanced with the need to protect the natural environments.
The most often quoted definition of sustainable development is, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own need.” It is a process of balancing needs. The needs of humans for economic and social development balanced with the need to protect the natural environments.
In other words, when countries make decisions about how to use the planet’s resources such as: water, minerals, gems, wildlife, trees, oil, and coal, they must consider how much of the resources they are using. They must also consider what processes they are using, and who will have access to them. The golden question is, “Will there be enough resources left for the grandchildren?”
The Three Components to Sustainable Development
Sustainable development encompasses three areas:
- Economic issues
- Environmental protection
- Social implications
In 2005 the World Summit Outcome Document refers to these three components as the “interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars.”
It can be said that prices do not really reflect the total cost of products.
- Airline companies do not pay for the carbon dioxide they add to the atmosphere. Thousands of planes are in the air over the planet all day long. They burn jet fuel emitting tons of carbon dioxide high into the atmosphere.
- The price of food does not include the cost of cleaning waterways polluted by agricultural chemicals. Pesticides are harmful chemicals. There is widespread use of fertilizers and pesticides all over the planet.
- Beef consumption causes severe environmental problems. There is little positive nutritional value and it is wasteful. The volume of food needed to feed cattle could feed a nation. The slaughtering of animals is deemed by many to be inhumane.
- Tobacco consumption is a waste of land use. There is a high cost of health care associated with tobacco use. If countries taxed farmland dedicated to tobacco plants, perhaps we could eliminate tobacco farms and tobacco use worldwide.
The Gross domestic product (GDP) fails to measure environmental impacts. They are considered external costs.
Green development is not the same as environmental sustainability. Green development places the environmental sustainability above economic sustainability. Green development is not always feasible.
The classic example is a water treatment plant that is very costly to build and expensive to maintain but is environmentally friendly. There are other ways to treat water that are not as costly. The economically sustainable way is the cheaper method that may not be as green. Sometimes cutting edge green development is not attainable.
Fresh water is a vital resource. Approximately 1.3 billion people are without access to clean water! Currently water is boiled to kill microorganisms. This requires burning wood to boil the water. This increases air pollution and deforestation.
An alternative is a UV (ultraviolet light) treatment of water. It does require electricity and amazingly, about 2 billion people do not have access to electricity! The environmentally sustainable way to purify water is an inexpensive UV light system.
Energy, in all its forms, is critical for maintaining an acceptable standard of living. To achieve global sustainable development, the energy use in China needs to be examined. China has the largest population of the world. Energy conservation in China will impact the planet for the foreseeable future.
Refrigerators consume the most energy in households worldwide. It is the goal of the Energy Analysis Program in California to create energy efficient refrigerators and train third world technicians in energy efficient technology. “Developing countries will flourish if they choose to use their technology in a sustainable manner.”
It has been said that achieving sustainable development is primarily a political task. That means it is dependent on elected officials and ultimately on the voting public. How often are elections decided on money and jobs’ issues. Sustainable development is not something one reads about in the local newspaper. It is not a topic on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube.
Sustainability requires that we only use the planet’s resources at a rate at which they can be replenished. But, so many resources cannot be replenished. The sun and wind are renewable; oil and coal are not.
Sustainable development needs to become the focus of corporations who will educate employees, who will educate communities, who will educate families. Only then will sustainable development become a reality.
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