Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations. The term was used by the Brundtland Commission which coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social challenges facing humanity. As early as the 1970s "sustainability" was employed to describe an economy "in equilibrium with basic ecological support systems." Ecologists have pointed to the “limits of growth” and presented the alternative of a “steady state economy” in order to address environmental concerns.
The field of sustainable development can be conceptually broken into three constituent parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and sociopolitical sustainability
Scope and definitions
The concept has included notions of weak sustainability, strong sustainability and deep ecology. Sustainable development does not focus solely on environmental issues. The United Nations 2005 World Summit Outcome Document refers to the "interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars" of sustainable development as economic development, social development, and environmental protection.
Indigenous people have argued, through various international forums such as the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Convention on Biological Diversity, that there are four pillars of sustainable development, the fourth being cultural. The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO, 2001) further elaborates the concept by stating that "...cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”; it becomes “one of the roots of development understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence". In this vision, cultural diversity is the fourth policy area of sustainable development.
Economic Sustainability: Agenda 21 clearly identified information, integration, and participation as key building blocks to help countries achieve development that recognises these interdependent pillars. It emphasises that in sustainable development everyone is a user and provider of information. It stresses the need to change from old sector-centred ways of doing business to new approaches that involve cross-sectoral co-ordination and the integration of environmental and social concerns into all development processes. Furthermore, Agenda 21 emphasises that broad public participation in decision making is a fundamental prerequisite for achieving sustainable development.
According to Hasna, sustainability is a process which tells of a development of all aspects of human life affecting sustenance. It means resolving the conflict between the various competing goals, and involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity famously known as three dimensions (triple bottom line) with is the resultant vector being technology, hence it is a continually evolving process; the ‘journey’ (the process of achieving sustainability) is of course vitally important, but only as a means of getting to the destination (the desired future state). However, the ‘destination’ of sustainability is not a fixed place in the normal sense that we understand destination. Instead, it is a set of wishful characteristics of a future system.
Green development is generally differentiated from sustainable development in that Green development prioritizes what its proponents consider to be environmental sustainability over economic and cultural considerations. Proponents of Sustainable Development argue that it provides a context in which to improve overall sustainability where cutting edge Green development is unattainable. For example, a cutting edge treatment plant with extremely high maintenance costs may not be sustainable in regions of the world with fewer financial resources. An environmentally ideal plant that is shut down due to bankruptcy is obviously less sustainable than one that is maintainable by the community, even if it is somewhat less effective from an environmental standpoint.
Some research activities start from this definition to argue that the environment is a combination of nature and culture. The Network of Excellence "Sustainable Development in a Diverse World",]sponsored by the European Union, integrates multidisciplinary capacities and interprets cultural diversity as a key element of a new strategy for sustainable development.
Still other researchers view environmental and social challenges as opportunities for development action. This is particularly true in the concept of sustainable enterprise that frames these global needs as opportunities for private enterprise to provide innovative and entrepreneurial solutions. This view is now being taught at many business schools including the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University and the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.
The United Nations Division for Sustainable Development lists the following areas as coming within the scope of sustainable development:]
Sustainable development is an eclectic concept, as a wide array of views fall under its umbrella. The concept has included notions of weak sustainability, strong sustainability and deep ecology. Different conceptions also reveal a strong tension between ecocentrism and anthropocentrism. The concept remains weakly defined and contains a large amount of debate as to its precise definition.
During the last ten years, different organizations have tried to measure and monitor the proximity to what they consider sustainability by implementing what has been called sustainability metrics and indices
Sustainable development is said to set limits on the developing world. While current first world countries polluted significantly during their development, the same countries encourage third world countries to reduce pollution, which sometimes impedes growth. Some consider that the implementation of sustainable development would mean a reversion to pre-modern lifestyles. Others have criticized the overuse of the term:
"[The] word sustainable has been used in too many situations today, and ecological sustainability is one of those terms that confuse a lot of people. You hear about sustainable development, sustainable growth, sustainable economies, sustainable societies, sustainable agriculture. Everything is sustainable (Temple, 1992)."[
Environmental sustainability is the process of making sure current processes of interaction with the environment are pursued with the idea of keeping the environment as pristine as naturally possible based on ideal-seeking behavior.
An "unsustainable situation" occurs when natural capital (the sum total of nature's resources) is used up faster than it can be replenished. Sustainability requires that human activity only uses nature's resources at a rate at which they can be replenished naturally. Inherently the concept of sustainable development is intertwined with the concept of carrying capacity. Theoretically, the long-term result of environmental degradation is the inability to sustain human life. Such degradation on a global scale could imply extinction for humanity.
Environmental sustainability is the ability to maintain the qualities that are valued in the physical environment.
For example, most people want to sustain (maintain):
human life the capabilities that the natural environment has to maintain the living conditions for people and other species (eg. clean water and air, a suitable climate) the aspects of the environment that produce renewable resources such as water, timber, fish, solar energy the functioning of society, despite non-renewable resource depletion the quality of life for all people, the livability and beauty of the environment
Threats to these aspects of the environment mean that there is a risk that these things will not be maintained. For example, the large-scale extraction of non-renewable resources (such as minerals, coal and oil) or damage done to the natural environment can create threats of serious decline in quality or destruction or extinction.
Traditionally, when environmental problems arise environmental managers work out how to reduce the damage or wastage. But it is not always easy to work out exactly when and where threats will have their effects and often the impacts are hard to reverse. So increasingly environmental managers adopt strategies aimed to prevent damage being done in the first place. A full sustainability program needs to include actions to prevent threats and impacts from arising, actions to protect the environment from threats and damage, and restoration to reverse damage already done.
Sustainability issues arise wherever there is a risk of difficult or irreversible loss of the things or qualities of the environment that people value. And whenever there are such risks there is a degree of urgency to take action.
Environmental sustainability programs include actions to reduce the use of physical resources, the adoption of a ‘recycle everything/buy recycled’ approach, the use of renewable rather than depletable resources, the redesign of production processes and products to eliminate the production of toxic materials, and the protection and restoration of natural habitats and environments valued for their livability or beauty.
To explore the idea of environmental sustainability in more detail, the Commissioner asked Philip Sutton, Director - Strategy for Green Innovations to prepare a paper on a definition for environmental sustainability, how it fits with other common terms related to sustainability and what it means for us to be environmentally sustainable. You can download the paper below.
R.Yuvarani, M,Phil Scholar, Periyar University, Salem-11
Carta da Terra
"Estamos diante de um momento crítico na história da Terra, numa época em que a humanidade deve escolher o seu futuro. À medida que o mundo torna-se cada vez mais interdependente e frágil, o futuro enfrenta, ao mesmo tempo, grandes perigos e grandes promessas. Para seguir adiante, devemos reconhecer que, no meio da uma magnífica diversidade de culturas e formas de vida, somos uma família humana e uma comunidade terrestre com um destino comum. Devemos somar forças para gerar uma sociedade sustentável global baseada no respeito pela natureza, nos direitos humanos universais, na justiça econômica e numa cultura da paz. Para chegar a este propósito, é imperativo que nós, os povos da Terra, declaremos nossa responsabilidade uns para com os outros, com a grande comunidade da vida, e com as futuras gerações." (da CARTA DA TERRA)