July 15, 2024
Sustainable Development Explained

The simplest definition of sustainable development springs from the United Nations Commission on Environmental and Development conference which was held over a decade ago. Sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” has became the accepted definition of sustainable development.

In 1992, the Earth Summit in Rio was the first summit to examine the progress made towards the goal of achieving sustainable development. Each of the five global conferences since then has addressed sustainable development in some form or another.

The Debate Continues

The debate continues over whether or not the three elements of sustainability, the environment, economic development and social equity can ever be equally meshed. Many people, especially the environmentalists, feel that sustainable development can never be achieved due to the huge scope of the problem. Despite this negativity, many countries and cities are actively working towards a goal of a sustainable future.

The U.S. created the Presidents Council on Sustainable Development during the Clinton administration. This council had representatives from environmental organizations, business and the government sectors. They developed policies to promote a growing economy, coupled with a healthy environment, which is essential to our national and global security.

Everyone seems to be in agreement that it’s essential that all groups work together to improve the quality of life on our planet. Efficient ways must be developed to use our natural resources, protect our global commons, manage human settlements, manage our chemicals, and our waste and achieve sustainable economic growth. How this is to be accomplished is a matter of hot debate.

“SD” Attention

Fortunately, sustainable development is gaining attention. A Google search has returned 23 million instances of the word on the Internet. The term is becoming so well known, that it is often shortened to “SD”. Yet, despite its growing popularly, the definition remains unclear and difficult to define.

After the second world war, four common themes emerged as values the worlds people want to achieve. These values are peace, freedom, development and the environment. World summits that have been held since then, have taken into account these four common themes and SD has evolved.

The three components, environment, economic and social spheres, overlap and no sphere can exist alone. Whether sustainable development is thought of as a goal, a concept or a movement, SD is taking hold on the international, national, corporate, city and local levels. Encompassing all the components of sustainable development remains a complex issue because everyone has their own idea of what SD is and how it can be achieved.

The SD Future

What this simply means is that our activity should not cause our natural resources to be depleted faster than it can be replaced. Using up our resources faster that they can be replaced naturally will, in theory, lead to a situation where the planet is incapable of sustaining human life. The ultimate result of this catastrophic failure could result in the extinction of the human race.

So what is sustainable development? The complete answer is certainly not clear and may never be, but the direction we should be headed is getting clearer all the time.