This article’s contents are derived from “Sustainable Development” 1997 pamphlet issued by U.S. Information agency.
Sustainable Development fundamentally means that the economies of the world should attempt to meet the needs of today’s generations without compromising or stealing from the future generations. Sustainable development is use of natural resources and national infrastructure in a way that seeks to avoid the exhaustion of those resources – and to avoid unacceptable levels of pollution incidental to industrial & commercial growth.
Five biological systems – croplands, forests, grasslands, oceans and fresh waterways – support the world economy. Except for fossil fuels and minerals, they supply all the raw materials for industry; and provide all our food. When the environment is finally forced into bankruptcy because its resource base has been polluted, degraded, dissipated, irretrievably compromised, then the economy goes down to bankruptcy with it. It happened in past in Central & Eastern Europe. Between 1987 & 1990, China lost some 20 million hectares of cropland.
The damage to the global environment, whether it is over fishing of the oceans, the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the release of chemical pollutants or the destruction of tropical forests, threatens the health of the people & future of economy. At the end of world war II, the earth’s population was nearing 2000 million; in 1997 it was around 6000 million & it is projected to reach 8000 million in 2020. It is increasing at rate of 91 million every year. This increased population has caused stress on biological systems considerably. Forests four times larger than Switzerland are lost every year. The people of world annually release 23,000 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air, increasing the earth’s temperature & threatening the health & habitat of animal, plants & people. Scientists estimate 70 different kinds of species we lose from earth every day & they warn that in 50 years a quarter of all species could be gone from earth. IPCC scientists predict that planet’s temperature will rise by 1 – 3.5 degrees Celsius, and the seas will rise between 15-91 centimeters by 2100. It can submerge Florida, Maldives & 17% of Bangladesh land inside water.
Coal, while abundant, easily convertible and cheap produces 1.3 times the carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that causes global warming) per unit of energy as oil & 1.8 times that of natural gas. It also contains trace amounts of toxic chemicals. China’s reliance on coal for its energy needs results in high levels of sulfur emissions which cause acid rain in China & in other countries in the region. Although the developed countries comprise only one-fifth of the world’s population, they use two-thirds of all resources consumed & generate four-fifths of all pollutants & wastes. In India, an estimated 70 percent of surface water is polluted. Less than 10 percent of nation’s more than 3,000 cities & towns have adequate sewage collection & treatment facilities as per 1997 data. Waterborne diseases account for two-thirds of all illnesses in the country.
By looking at larger picture, we are all sailing in the same boat. We have the power & enormous responsibilities to captain that boat carefully. So we can pass the earth in same status to next generations in which we received. Problems created by man can be solved by man. To achieve this, countries need to think beyond normal GDP growths. It should be GDP + Growth of trees & forests in a country + fresh water resources growth + air quality growth in cities + growth of animals + quality of education growth. That’s the way to achieve balanced social, economic & environmental growth to acquire objective of long lasting sustainable development.