Why We Must Focus on Sustainable Development Right Now

Sustainable development can be many different things so, for some, it is difficult to pin down. At the heart of its methodology is the approach to development that takes the earth's resources into consideration. This can mean something different for people with varying concerns.

Essentially, it is based on utilizing renewable energy resources along with sustainable agriculture or forestry practices. The goal is to create a sustainable living environment that can continue on for future generations. Many contemporary sustainable development strategies make use of wind power and solar power.

Hence, they are sustainable based on their reliance on resources that are naturally occurring and free to access. Basically, they are infinitely accessible to humans. Sustainable development also looks at economic and social sustainability.

Why do we need sustainable development?

Photo: Peter Blanchard and Flickr.com

This is a good question, which gets asked quite often. With sustainable development growing in popularity, there are many people who have questions. In the past, we were more concerned with technologies and foods that were convenient for us to consume.

It was all about making life a lot easier. While some of those technologies are good, some of them have not done well in terms of preserving our planet. Logically, we depend on the health of our planet for our very survival. As the world of economic and industry continued to make progress, we learned more about the effects of ignoring the health of our planet.

We cannot consume conspicuously, until the end of time, without consequences. We've been using up our resources without an eye to the future. This is when it was realized that profound changes in how we live, think and act needed to be made. We all want to live happy and productive lives. But, in order to do that, we must start using our natural resources more carefully. We have to develop a balance between our material needs in a way which does not endanger our planet and way of life in the long run. People are living longer.

In addition, the global population is on the rise. According to the United Nations, there will be over 10 billion people living on the earth by 2100. This population explosion is one of the major factors behind sustainable development. To illustrate, there is the issue of food security. The global middle classes are expanding, and so are their demands. To combat rising populations and natural resource scarcity, sustainable development needs to incorporate items such as:

• Commodity prices
• Desertification
• Safeguards for traditional livelihoods
• Biofuels
• Crop genetic diversity
• City development

Cities will need to accommodate the rising populations, as well. They will need to become larger in order to handle new residents. If they are not developed sustainably, they will become more expensive to build and maintain over the long run. The reason is finite fossil fuels will only get more expensive as they begin to run out. Plus, the need will increase to produce energy for larger populations. This then negatively impacts the air quality. With sustainable development, cities can prepare for new housing and business developments indefinitely.


Our food production will have to play catch up with the growing population. It must feed billions more people than it does right now. The same spraying, watering, seeding, tilling and harvesting methods cannot be used indefinitely as they still rely on fossil fuels.

Instead, sustainable agriculture practices such as effective seeding practices and crop rotation can produce high yields without damaging the integrity of the soil. As a result, you can produce more food for more people.

Examples of sustainable development

1. Crop rotation. This is the planting of different crops on the same land to help control insects and diseases, as well as improve soil fertility. Moreover, it is chemical-free. This form of development benefits both farmers and home gardens.

2. Wind energy. This is a readily available energy source. Windmill will need to be used. In fact, they can even supplement or replace the cost of grid power. The investment will continue to pay off over time.

3. Efficient water fixtures. Installing efficient shower heads, water appliances and toilets to help conserve our most precious resource--water. Humans can survive a month without food. Although, we cannot survive a week without water. Approved water fixtures can come from the EPA's WaterSense program. There are also dual-flush and composting toilets.

It requires a lot of energy to produce and transport water. The same is true for processing waste water. Less than one percent of the earth's available water supply is fresh water. This is why it is critical to employ sustainable water use.

4. Solar energy. It's completely free and available in limitless supply. It also helps reduce pollution produced by non-renewable energy.

5. Green space. These are parks and other areas where plants and wildlife are supported. These are especially useful in dense, urban areas--they allow the public the opportunity to enjoy nature and the outdoors. Furthermore, green space can regulate climate and air quality. They reduce energy consumption by countering the warming effects of paved surfaces. They also protect our bodies of water from polluted runoff.

Financial stability

Sustainable development may have the added benefit of producing financially sustainable economies. For example, economies poor in resources can still access free energy through renewables and then train workers in jobs that won't be displaced due to finite resources.

Unsustainable development may not have a place in the economies of the future. Not to mention, industries built upon a reliance of a single resources will more than likely fail in the future. This is why sustainable development is a serious option.

There isn't any question that sustainable development is cleaner, more efficient and is environmentally-friendly. In addition, it has long-term potential. We've already use a massive amount of non-renewable resources in our everyday lives. As the population rises, these resources will be more quickly depleted. One day, sustainable development may no longer be an option but the only choice. The point is to start sustainable development now, on our own terms, before we're forced into it.

Written by:     Katrina Manning of GoGreen.org

Publication Date:     January 2017

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