Sustainable development

mode of human development that meets current demands without compromising the needs of future generations

Sustainable development is a way for people to use the things they need so there will be left. It means building things without harming the natural world. The Brundtland Commission said sustainable development is the same thing as sustainability: It "meets the needs of the present and [does not] compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs""[1]

Everyone wants a good place to live. Some people want better homes and housing, while other people want better schools, more jobs, better shops, or cleaner and safer streets. Others may want all these things. What ever the problems in any neighbourhood, they can usually be grouped into three issues. People need:

  • A better environment – Green spaces, play areas, no litter, gardens, good houses, less noise and pollution. The resources used should grow back over generations.
  • A better economy - Good jobs, reasonable prices, heat and light, no unfair loans
  • Better social conditions – Good places to have fun, community groups with sports and arts, friendly neighbours.
Graphic explanation from UNHCR

Acting against these goals is population growth, which is almost out of control in many countries.

This is not just a local issue. The same problems are faced at a national level. If the governments of the world are to deal with poverty, they do not just need to provide money and food aid, they need to help local people get educated and get jobs. People also need a safe environment with adequate homes and drinking water. To make these things work, governments also need to make sure that people have an effective voice in deciding what happens where they live.

This approach is called "sustainable development". While this phrase can be confusing, it's now used in many government documents and in funding programmes. Sustainable development has three parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and sociopolitical sustainability.

At the core of this idea is the matter of meeting people's needs – for a home, for a decent job, for education for their children, for good health care, and for a safe and healthy neighbourhood to live in.

Most people in the rich nations have most of these needs, but there are still many people living in poverty and in poor quality homes. Even if these basic needs are met there are still plenty of ways in which their ‘quality of life’ is under threat: from crime, from pollution, or from living in neighbourhoods where no-one in authority seems to care.

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". - Our Common Future (Report), World Commission on Environment and Development

Many areas have programmes to promote local sustainability: many are called ‘Local Agenda 21’ plans, named after the international Agenda 21 action plan for sustainable development agreed at the United Nations Earth Summit held in 1992.

The UN has released a set of 17 goals aiming at sustainable development. They are:-

Sustainable Development Goals
Sustainable Development Goals

Becoming out of date change

Population is dropping in many countries. and due to drop in others. Arguments based on population growth are too over-general. What is happening in many countries is a failure to reproduce at replacement rate. This is about 2.1 children on average per female in the population. On average, women are not having so many children as they used to. This is apparently the effect of birth control being available in most countries.

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  1. United Nations. 1987. "Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development." General Assembly Resolution 42/187, 11 December 1987. Retrieved: 2007-04-12

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