As the world keeps on changing, that is; socially, economically and environmentally, concerns are being raised over the changes and in particular, on their sustainability. As a result of that, scholars have come up with the idea of sustainable development as a solution to the probable risk of which the changes or rather development appears to create. It is this kind of thinking that raises the question of whether sustainability is essential or not. The essay below will focus on the description of the term, sustainable development, as well as provide various reasons as to what makes it a significant undertaking. In so doing, the discussion will take the position that sustainable development is important.
The Meaning of Sustainable Development
The concept of sustainable development is widely debated, on various grounds; how it can best be defined, measured or even promoted. In this regard, two groups, that is, ecologists and economists, have come forth in defining the concept. To start with, ecologists, they consider sustainable development as the ability to preserve both the function and status of ecological systems. However, this definition is not in conformity with economist’s view, which associate sustainability with the improvement and maintenance of human development. In a more in-depth sense, economist believes that it is possible to use natural resources and substitute them by other forms of capital. In addition, economists believe that such a move is not harmful as long as productive capacity is retained. On the other hand, ecologists do not believe in such a substitution but rather, consider natural resources as more valuable than their productive use and therefore, not possible and prudent to substitute it by other forms of capital (Emas, 2015). Given the view that the two groups put forth, Brundtland Commission, in 1987, came up with a definition that has relatively been embraced by both economist and ecologist.
According to the commission, sustainable development can best be described as development that has the potential to meet the needs of present generation without affecting in a negative way, the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The description embraces both economic and environmental value, in that, economic advancement needs to proceed or be maintained as well as protecting the value of the environment for future use. Therefore, economic development and environmental protection is the foundation upon which the concept of sustainable development lies. Also, the definition indicates that there has to be some equity between the present and future generations (Robert, Parris, and Leiserowitz, 2005, pp. 8-21). However, to achieve all these, proponents have categorized the concepts into three areas, that is, social, environmental and economic concerns.
To start with, economic concerns, it involves major business players such as organizations and business people to not only work in conformity with rules and regulations regarding sustainability but go further in implementing the concept. Both economist and ecologist acknowledge the fact that by nature, the demand and supply market is consumerist and thus, to sustain modern life, a significant amount of resources has to be used. However, it is essential to not only use the resources but utilize them under control as well. The understanding of the idea is much encouraged in developing countries where multinational companies and other interest groups find cheap resources. In addition, there is the social concern, which involves the well-being of people against harmful activities of either organizations or other business interest groups. Harmful activities include pollution and other activities that endanger people's quality of life and which are encouraged by economic development (Blewitt, 2014). A good example of this is building good houses and at the same time sustaining the material used for construction. It is for these reasons that most countries have come up with legislation to facilitate checks and balances for sustainable development. The last concern that sustainable development involves itself in is that of the environment, which in this respect include protecting the environment. Humanity relies on the environment, and any threat against it endangers not only present generations but the survival of future generations as well. The environment has become a significant concern among proponent of sustainable development arguing that corporations and other business entities pose a high risk to the environment, through pollution and other activities that affect the integrity of the ecosystem (Wheeler, and Beatley, 2014). Therefore, for sustainable development to be achieved there is the need for corporations and other organs to embrace other methods that are less stressful to the environment, for instance, through the use of biotechnology or the use of renewable sources of energy. Thus, for sustainability to be achieved there is need for integration of the three concerns, that is, social, environmental and economic concerns.
Why Sustainable Development is Important
Just like the definition of the term, there are also debates on the importance of sustainable development, and as such, it is worth shedding some light on what makes the concept an important undertaking that each person must embrace. The impact and importance of the sustainable development can be looked through the realm of the three concerns, that is, environmental, social and economic impacts on people’s lives as far as sustainable development is concerned. Firstly, sustainable development encourages ecological protection which safeguards the earth’s ability to support humanity and all its components. In addition, implementing the concept makes it clear that the world acknowledge the limits of natural resources and therefore, improves the environment so as to be useful to present and future generations. It also has the significance in preventing or rather decreasing environmental pollution. Pollution brings about climatic changes and scholars argue that if steps are not taken, to protect the environment, future generations may be at risk. In this regards, sustainable development promises to reduce such danger, thus, qualifying it to be a useful concept (Robert, Parris, and Leiserowitz, 2005, pp.8-21). Lastly, the idea is essential for it advocates for corporation among different nations to protect the environment. Since the inception of the term sustainable development, the United Nations has been at the forefront advocating for cooperation among the various countries to avoid further damage to the environment. These are the reasons that make the concept relevant as far as environmental concerns and survival of present, and future generations are concerned.
Secondly, sustainable development is essential when looking at it from the social angle. In this aspect, sustainable development makes it possible or rather advocates for social cohesion and equity. There are a number of ways this can be achieved within the realm of sustainable development. Firstly, is through promotion of a healthy and socially inclusive society. It is essential that corporations and business people respect cultural diversity and fundamental rights of people they interact. Also, the concept, help development agencies to act indiscriminately especially where there is the need to provide equal opportunities in a given society or group of people (Kolk, 2016, pp.23-34). It is through such measures within the social aspect of a given culture that qualifies sustainable development to be of great importance.
Lastly, another thing that makes sustainable development to be of importance is its advocacy for economic prosperity, in that, every person has a right to have a good standard of living. The good standard of living is made possible through initiatives or conditions. The concept advocates for better job opportunities, high standards of goods at affordable prices for consumers. Sustainable development also advocates for proper education and suitable skills that can sustain growth. In addition, economic prosperity makes it possible to eradicate poverty, especially, in developing countries (Cobbinah, Erdiaw-Kwasie, and Amoateng, 2015, pp.62-72). For these reasons, it is prudent to argue that sustainable development is important.
In addition, looking at the concept from other angles, the importance of sustainable development becomes evident. Firstly, the concept aims to protect technological resources. Minerals and other natural resources act as crucial ingredients for manufacturing and building technologies. It is important therefore to protect them so as future generations may utilize for production. Moreover, as human population continues rising, provision of basic needs becomes staggering, especially, when fossil fuel continues to be the primary source of energy, which is not infinite (Skye, 2018). Thus, the concepts of sustainability advocates for sustainable options that will see the process become continuous, therefore, securing the future for generations to come. Lastly, in regards to accommodating cities, the rise in population in cities leads to increased use of fossil fuel. However, two disadvantages come with its use. Firstly, it will become expensive to acquire over time for it is not finite, and secondly, it affects the quality of air negatively (Skye, 2018). The use of sustainable practices ensures that development of cities is sustainable.
It is evident that the meaning of sustainable development is varied depending on the quotas that define it. However, Brundtland's definition has been widely used compared to others. The concepts revolves around economic, social and environmental concerns, in particular, how the three areas can work together to meet the need of present and future generations. In this respect, the concept is vital in many ways, as has been demonstrated above.
Blewitt, J., 2014. Understanding sustainable development. Routledge.
Cobbinah, P.B., Erdiaw-Kwasie, M.O. and Amoateng, P., 2015. Africa’s urbanisation: Implications for sustainable development. Cities, 47, pp.62-72.
Emas, R., 2015. The concept of sustainable development: definition and defining principles. Florida International University.
Kolk, A., 2016. The social responsibility of international business: From ethics and the environment to CSR and sustainable development. Journal of World Business, 51(1), pp.23-34.
Mason, M. G. (2018). What Is Sustainability and Why Is It Important? | EnvironmentalScience.org. Retrieved from https://www.environmentalscience.org/sustainability
Robert, K.W., Parris, T.M. and Leiserowitz, A.A., 2005. What is sustainable development? Goals, indicators, values, and practice. Environment: science and policy for sustainable development, 47(3), pp.8-21.
Skye, J. (2018). Why Is Sustainable Development Important? | LoveToKnow. [online] LoveToKnow. Available at: https://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/Why_Is_Sustainable_Development_Important [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
Wheeler, S.M. and Beatley, T. eds., 2014. Sustainable urban development reader. Routledge.