Sustainable Development is a term that seems to reveal multitudes the more you contemplate it’s meaning. It’s a great idea that is fairly open for interpretation. Just how sustainable can development be? Even after an hour and a half in class discussing the term, I don’t feel competent in concisely including every aspect it deserves. It would require careful planning, taking into account the environmental implications, the impacts on people society (benefits would have to outweigh costs), economic viability making the development profitable and sustainable (long lasting), it would have to be personalized to the community and would be dictated by it’s location, the list goes on… the whole life-cycle of the product and it’s effects would need to be taken into account, the reusability, the endurance, the creativity to design or develop any sort of product or industry that is ultimately sustainable would seem to threaten economy and trade….would money be as important I wonder? We will need to gain knowledge from the past to acquire skills that are worth trading….like darning socks maybe? The term always drags me into a full-blown daydream of an awesome healthy future that is so unlike our western societies today (except for those European gems that have embraced change) I love the daydream. Returning to the term sustainable development, where this progressive daydream spawns from and I’d like to touch on the key elements of the classic diagrams that appear on google when you type in the two words side-by-side.
Below is an attempt at compiling the most important aspects from the best definitions I’ve read, into my own words.
Sustainable development is holistic progress towards a future that encompasses the health of the environment first and foremost and supports cultural vitality, reinvests social capital, and from this a thriving economy will ensue. The key to all of this is to stop the main focus on the growth of economy right here and now. A sustainable economy can provide prosperity with innovation and balance. A shift to a sustainable economy where needs are met and any exploitation of natural resources is replenished or avoided and where social responsibility is first and foremost for all enterprises.
The reason I chose the four tiered graphic above is because ancient cultures around the globe (aside from a few who have ‘won’ Darwin Awards) have realized the importance of environmental respect and it really is fundamental in rituals, daily harvests, and developments. With the English language spread far and wide and the western world promoted globally via commercialism, culture is fading from our world. I think it’s of utmost importance to instead nourish cultural vitality to guard the strongest spiritual connections we have to the earth. Without diversity of cultures worldwide our chances of recalling how to live within our own means will become a meaningless saying. Without the wisdom of these cultures the simplest most effective solutions we will need may be lost.
At the same time I slightly am in disagreement with the diagram above, because it, like many demonstrates fails to depict Environmental Health as the foundation and the priority. You must admit that without an an agreeable environment, the other spheres simply do not exist.
So, may I suggest a slight alteration to the image above- without discounting any sphere. I suggest a larger foundation sphere representing Environmental Health with smaller three over-lapping spheres of Cultural vitality, Social Equity, and the Economic Prosperity. This prioritizes the essential element and recognizes the secondary ingredients to form community well-being.
I think it is very appropriate that this term has had a variety of definitions depending on the dialogue since it a very complex term that seems to be misused more often than used suitably. This term is often used by corporations to green wash operations, has been trashed by conservative governments, and frequently reinvented by many ecologists to encompass issues of the day. It also shows that this idea of sustainable development will require refining and input from everyone to be succeed.
Lets get to it!