If you Google sustainable development, you’re bound to come up with a variety of posts. But, what exactly does it mean when companies, foundations and the public at large refer to sustainable development?
The answer is simply that there is no consensus on what people mean when they refer to ‘sustainable development.’
Bearing that in mind, I will try to illuminate some of the darker corners and brighter sides of the concept.
First coined in the 1983 Brundtland Report, sustainable development is commonly understood to mean “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Basically, conserve the earth’s resources so that future generations will have something left.
However, some have interpreted this to mean that environmental abuse today is justifiable so long as it can be ‘fixed’ at a later date.
This belief is often employed by those that place their faith in technology to save the world from humanity’s many mistakes.
Those opposed to the concept of sustainable development, on the other hand, often cite that combining ‘sustainable’ with ‘development’ is an oxymoron. In other words, you cannot have sustainable human societies where there is constant development.
So, sustainable development can be a double edged sword that can act in favour or against environmentally friendly actions.
You know the cat is out of the bag when mega corporations like petrochemical distributor Shell Chemical start tossing in the term sustainable development to describe their products and policies.
Despite the controversy surrounding ‘sustainable development,’ the term is here to stay. After all, it’s better that people talk about developing sustainably instead of ignoring the problems associated with cities and urban development entirely.