Sustainable development: Leave nobody behind
Sustainable development is a new concept but it was practiced before with different names and ways. Development means to improve the well-being of people like boosting living standards, improve the education, health etc. In another aspect, it also means improving political and civil rights. Likewise, an essential means for enabling development is economic growth. Sustainable development is the development that lasts long. There are various definitions of development and many interpret in their own ways but the specific concern is that those who enjoy the fruits of economic development today may be making future generation worse off by excessively degrading the earth's resources and polluting the environment. The development should meet our current needs without compromising the chances of future generations to meet theirs.
The affinity between the environment and development are inseparable. The environment is everything around us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, land that nourishes for our food and all living beings encompasses the environment. The development is what we do with these resources to improve our lives. Around the world, we do things that we believe will improve our lives, but everything we do alter our environment.
When the issue of sustainable development came, there was another type of sustainability that emerged. And these are supported by three pillars - growth with equality, people empowerment and maintenance of ecological integrity. People were confused because of sustainable growth, sustainable use, so on that have been used as interchangeable terms as if their meaning were the same. WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development) define sustainable development as the development that meets the needs of present generation without compromising the needs of future generation. The concept is - sustainable development emphasizes intergeneration solidarity that refers our moral obligation to leave to the new generation as the good environment as it is and as abundance resources as those we have found. These things reinforce the key development objectives of alleviating poverty, generating employment, redistributing income, empowering people and conserving environment and natural resources.
Like many underdeveloped countries, the population of our country is growing faster than our ability to provide jobs, economic opportunities, and natural resources. This is the point where the cycle of poverty starts. When people are poorly fed and educated, they try to earn a living through means that are familiar and near at hand. So they cut trees, till the soil, fish the river, seas, and lakes and adopt easy source of income until they can get the maximum benefits from that resources. This kind of exploitation of natural resources by the human being has caused depletion and degradation of the environment and nature can no longer support the livelihood of people.
Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental development are the main dimension of sustainable development. These four are the legs of the chair which encode absolute sustainable development. If all legs of that chair do not have same length and strength it does not last. The most important thing is to balance all the dimensions. But no country has yet reached a perfect balance and nor some will.
Sustainable development is an extremely scale dependent process. Therefore, it should be understood and applied with a changing society and with the open society. Holling once said, "The future is not just uncertain; It is inherently unpredictable." In this case, economic development has not yet reached all over the world; Environmental development is only increasing because of massive programs on it. Social development is likely to become the most enfeebled because of the social gap and geopolitical gap.
And last but not the least is cultural development, which is under the threats of the worldwide development of information technology and different lifestyle of people. Especially people from the underdeveloped country have lived in poverty for a long time. And now the time has come to think- which development path we will take. The difficult task is to return everything exactly in the same condition to the future generation which we inherit from our ancestor. This biosphere has to wait very long way to achieve the absolute sustainable development. Protecting the environment should be the part of all activities of economic and social development. Let's not leave anybody behind. We must ensure that no person regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or another status will be denied economic opportunities and basic human rights. It is possible to eradicate poverty and achieve economic development through Sustainable Development if we work hard with good policy.
Yadav is a social activist, yoga instructor who has Master degree in Childhood & Society with women's Studies from the University of Roehampton. She can be reached by email at anu[at]anitayadav.com