Sustainable development is a development based on patterns of production and consumption that can be pursued into the future without degrading the human or natural environment. It involves the equitable sharing of the benefits of economic activity across all sections of society to enhance the well-being of humans, protect health and alleviate poverty.
Sustainable Development today is the most politicized catchword of international developmental conferences and programs. It is a multidimensional concept, and its interpretation and understanding are often content and context-specific.
Sustainable Development has developed out of the concerns of depleting natural resources and a subsequent slowdown or even closing down of much of the economic activity and production systems. It is the result of ‘over-exploitation’ or ‘rapacious misuse‘ of earth’s precious and limited resource base by those few who had control over production systems.
The concept has emerged as a broad framework to debate and decide on the desirable direction of change in social and economic systems, policies, programs, and actions at the national, community, or individual levels.
It developed in the 1960s when people became aware of the detrimental effects of industrialization on the environment.
Sustainability offers long-term planning for productive techniques, industrial processes, and equitable distribution policies for exploiting resources, such as coal, oil, and water. Sustainable planning ensures their longer life span and a broader user base so that the greatest number of people may benefit from it for the longest possible time.
The emergence of the idea of sustainability also strikes at the indispensability of technological transformation towards energy-saving devices and alternate and non-conventional systems for providing comfort to citizens without bringing down their quality of life. It has led to a total revolution in how people and governments have started thinking and designing their developmental programmes and projects.
A new respect has emerged for ‘grassroots governance,’ which fuels growth by providing land, water, and forests that constitute the three basic inputs to any form of industrialization. Thus sustainable development is also indicative of ‘planning from below’ in contrast to the ivory tower ‘planning from top’ in which technological systems drove grassroots ecosystems. As a result, the grassroots ecosystems started to wither away as they could not manage and cleanse the high amount of effluent discharges, pollution, and resource overuse.
Sustainability of Nature or Ecosystem or Environment
‘Nature’ provides human societies and economies with a complex life support system, air, water, food, and a suitable climate for survival. It also provides the physical resources necessary for the sustenance of economies. Nature has supported and maintained life on earth since immemorial and should continue to do so in the future. It is known as the sustainability of nature or ecosystems or the environment.
However, we have been interfering with the sustainability of the natural systems through our avaricious activities. If we continue on the same trajectory, not only the other life forms but also humanity’s very existence is threatened. There are limits to nature’s capacity to absorb impacts. Once nature’s initial state changes, it cannot quickly revert back to the initial state.
Nature has a limited capacity to withstand rapid change. Thus, today, the challenge before humankind is to determine the state in which we wish to live and to continue living within limits inherent in nature’s processes, within nature’s carrying capacity.
Introduction: ‘ Sustainability,’ ‘Development,’ and Sustainable Development.
The term ‘Sustainability’ has been defined variously, such as:
- Sustainability refers to a process or state that can be maintained eternally.
- Natural resources must be used in ways that do not create ecological debts by over-exploiting the carrying and productive capacity of the earth.
- A minimum necessary condition for sustainability is maintaining the total natural capital stock at or above the current level.
The term ‘Sustainability’ is also used to demonstrate development policies’ temporal and livelihood context. The temporal context refers to the chronological perspective in which communities maintain cultural and economic integrity.
The livelihood context of development policies is the preservation of existing values under threat from external economic forces leading to the collapse of a delicate natural resource balance.
The Strategy for Sustainable Living (1991) by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) says that “sustainable use means use of an organism, ecosystem, or other renewable resource at a rate within its capacity for renewal.”
The Economist Herman Daly has offered specifications for maintaining sustainability. He thinks that:
- Rates of use of renewable resources should not exceed regeneration rates.
- Rates of use of non-renewable resources should not exceed rates of development of renewable substitutes.
- Rates of pollution emission should not exceed the assimilative capacities of the environment.
The term ‘Development’ broadly means the ‘social’ and ‘economic’ improvement. It is needed to create opportunities, prosperity, and choices for all inhabitants of the world, and it must proceed in a way that leaves choices available for future generations. It refers to the holistic growth of the human and natural environment towards autonomy and freedom. It reflects a growth pattern, which makes nations more decisive in their internal and external surroundings.
The concept of sustainable development was envisaged to introduce environmentalist principles into the central issue of economic development policy. It tried to modify the kind of unsustainable development tactics that were being followed.
Sustainable development combines the terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘development’ to indicate a growth pattern, which strengthens the national capabilities to care for their people with their total relationship with the earth’s resources.
The Brundtland Commission gave the most widely used definition of Sustainable Development in its report “Our Common Future (1987).” It defined Sustainable development as ‘development, which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Since then, several interpretations of Sustainable Development have emerged, for example:
- They are improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems.
- Economic growth provides fairness and opportunity for all the people, not just the privileged few, without further destroying the world’s finite natural resources and carrying capacity.
- Sustainable development comprises economical and social development that protects and enhances the natural environment and social equity.
Thus, sustainable development focuses upon a relationship between humans and their environment and indicates a warning that humans cannot push development, which is against nature, as in the end, it is always nature that will win.
Sustainable development encourages the conservation and preservation of natural resources and the environment and the management of energy, waste, and transportation.
Sustainable development is a development based on patterns of production and consumption that can be pursued into the future without degrading the human or natural environment. It involves the equitable sharing of the benefits of economic activity across all sections of society to enhance the well-being of humans, protect health and alleviate poverty. If sustainable development is to be successful, the attitudes of individuals and governments regarding our current lifestyles and the impact they have on the environment will need to be changed.