Is Sustainable Development Unsustainable?

Written By: / Articles / Thursday, 28 April 2022 17:58

The drive for economic growth has resulted in problems such as environmental degradation and social disparities. Sustainable development prescribes for a more balanced approach to growth that progresses development across three underlying pillars: social inclusion; environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. Quality of life assessment, such as the OECD’s How’s Life 2020 report, have told us that economic growth does not equate to happiness or a sense of well-being. As the global population increases, so too does the pressure on our bio-system and social equity. Sustainable development calls for the adoption of more responsible consumption and production patterns. The industrial revolution brought about unprecedented economic growth and many advances such as electricity. Coal has generally been an affordable source of energy for much of the world but it has come at huge cost to the environment and society. Coal is a finite resource which produces harmful greenhouse gases that largely contributed to climate change. A more sustainable approach is to adopt energy efficient technologies and diversify our energy supply. Renewable energy such as wind, solar and biomass is an alternative energy source, which doesn’t pose harmful effects to our health and environment. New renewable energy technologies can also represent new economic opportunities. The notion of ‘’sustainable development’’ is looking ever more fragile, at least in political terms. Indeed, the rift is growing between advocates of environmental protection and economic development-two key components of sustainable development that the landmark World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 judged were ‘’impossible to separate’’. So is sustainable development unsustainable?
Until two decades ago, the world looked at economic status alone as a measure of human development. Thus, countries that were economically well developed and where people were relatively richer were called advanced nations, while the rest where poverty were widespread and were economically backward were called developing countries. Most countries of North America and Europe, which had become industrialized at an earlier stage, are economically more advanced. They not only exploited their own natural resources rapidly, but also used the natural resources of developing countries to grow even larger economies. S as development progressed, the rich countries got richer while the poor nations got poorer. However, even the developed world has begun to realize that their lives were being seriously affected by the environmental consequences of development based on economic growth alone. This form of development did not add to the quality of life as the environmental conditions had begun to deteriorate.
By the 1970s, most development specialists began to appreciate the fact that economic growth alone could not bring about a better way of life for people unless environmental conditions were improved. Development strategies in which only economic considerations were used, had begun to suffer from serious environmental problems due to air and water pollution, waste management, deforestation and variety of other ill effects that seriously affected peoples’ well-being and health. There were also serious equity issues between the haves and the have-nots in society, at the national and global levels. The disparity in the lifestyles between the rich and the poor was made worse by these unsustainable development strategies.
Many decades ago, Mahatma Gandhi envisioned a reformed village community based on sound environmental management. He stressed the need for sanitation based on recycling human and animal manure and well –ventilated cottage built for recyclable material. He envisioned clean roads that were free of dust. His main objective was to use village-made goods instead of industrial products. All these principles are now considered part of sound long-term development. Gandhi had designed a sustainable lifestyle for himself when these concepts were not a part of general thinking. The idea of sustainable development grew from various environmental movements; however it was only clearly defined in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development (also known as the Brundtland Commission 1987) as: Development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This expresses the idea of environmental, economic and social equity within the limits of the world’s natural resources. Sustainable development is based on improving the quality of life for all, especially the poor and deprived, within the carrying capacity of the supporting eco-systems. It is a process which leads to a better quality of life while reducing the impact on the environment. Its strength is that it acknowledges the interdependence of human needs and environmental requirements.
To ensure sustainable development, any activity that is expected to bring about economic growth must also consider its environmental impact (or environmental costs) so that it is more consistent with long-term growth and development. Many development projects- such as dams, mines, roads, industries and tourism development- have sever environmental consequences in terms of their natural resource use and their impact on bio-diversity. All these impacts must be studied before any development activity is even begun. Thus, for every project, in a strategy that looks at sustainable development, there must be a scientifically and honestly done EIA, without which the project must not be cleared.
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About the Author

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. Presently, he is teaching Mathematics at JCRE Global College. Jugeshwor can be reached at: [email protected] Or WhatsApp’s No: 9612891339.

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