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Coursework: CW1 – Issues of Sustainability

        Module: UEL_7_SPL Sustainable Places


The term ‘sustainable development’ was presented in the early 70’s:

“The phrase ‘sustainable development’ appears to have been first used in 1972 by Donella Meadows and other authors of the Limits to Growth and by Edward Goldsmith and the other British authors of Blueprint for Survival in the same year” (Wheeler 2004, p. 19)

In 1987, the phrase ‘Sustainable Development’ “has come to represent mainstream thinking about the relationship between environment and development” (Baker 2004, p. 6) after the World Conference on Environment and Development (WCED) in its report “Our Common Future” known as well as the “Brundtland Report” which defined this term as “development that meets the needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”  (WCED, 1987) quoted in Wheeler et al (2004, p. 53)

In 1992 the United Nations organised the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) which was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and today it is known as “the Rio Earth Summit”, and later, in 2002, “the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) where were spotted the normative principles for an action plan for sustainable development for the future years to come.  (Baker 2008, p. 6)

But how can we ensure develop of our countries if our needs are actually destroying the capability of the future generations to meet theirs? Just one image comes to my mind; and the root cause of the environmental issues that we are facing today is the volatile growth in population without forgetting the rapid economic development in the emerging countries.  Furthermore the social and political issue exceeds the obligation.

There is no perfect definition of sustainable development yet but there are a few of them that Wheeler (2004, p. 24-25) quoted on his brief of example definitions of sustainable development:

“…is development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their owns need” (Brundtland Commission, 1987)”

“…means improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems” (World Conservation Union, 1991)

“… sustainability requires at least a constant stock of natural capital, construed as the set of all environmental assets” (David Pearce, 1988)

“… sustainability equals conservation plus stewardship plus restoration” (Sim Van der Ryn, 1994)

“… sustainability is the fundamental root metaphor than can oppose the notion of continued exponential material growth” (Ernest Callenbach, 1992)

“… sustainable development seeks… to respond to five broad requirements: (1) integration of conservation and development, (2) satisfaction of basic human needs, (3) achievement of equity and social justice, (4) provision of social self-determination and cultural diversity, and (5) maintenance of ecological integrity” (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 1986)

Many of the above definitions have shown that there are three independent areas of sustainable development which are the environmental, economic and social aspects.  The definitions above the desirable concept of sustainability may be based in different ways but all seek to maintain development over time.  By all means, one of the problems with the concept of sustainable development is the nonexistence of an agreed definition, or at least, a lack of agreement on the implications of that definition.

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According to Baker (2008, p.7) promoting sustainable development is about steering societal change ate the interface between the social, the economic and the ecological which constitutes the three pillars of its concept.  The major aim of sustainable development is to fully utilise the goals of the three pillars which is given by the intersection of these circles shown in the Figure 1.  This figure shows that an achievement balance is required between these competing needs which is not an easy task to achieve as the world is dynamic and changeable in terms of human systems and needs.

Figure 1  The ...

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