The United Nation’s 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future noted that sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the well-being of future generations.
The concept continues to expand in scope. In 2000, the Earth Charter broadened the definition of sustainability to include the idea of a global society “founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”
To achieve these lofty goals, humans will have to re-examine their policies on:
- Environmental protection.
- Social responsibility.
- Economic practice.
The Three Pillars of Sustainability
In 2005, the World Summit on Social Development identified three core areas that contribute to the philosophy and social science of sustainable development. These “pillars” in many national standards and certification schemes, form the backbone of tackling the core areas that the world now faces. The Brundtland Commission described it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We must consider the future then, in making our decisions about the present.
This is the issue that proves the most problematic as most people disagree on political ideology what is and is not economically sound, and how it will affect businesses and by extension, jobs and employability. It is also about providing incentives for businesses and other organizations to adhere to sustainability guidelines beyond their normal legislative requirements. Also, to encourage and foster incentives for the average person to do their bit where and when they can; one person can rarely achieve much, but taken as a group, effects in some areas are cumulative. The supply and demand market is consumerist in nature and modern life requires a lot of resources every single day; for the sake of the environment, getting what we consume under control is the paramount issue. Economic development is about giving people what they want without compromising quality of life, especially in the developing world, and reducing the financial burden and “red tape” of doing the right thing.
There are many facets to this pillar. Most importantly is awareness of and legislation protection of the health of people from pollution and other harmful activities of business and other organizations. In North America, Europe and the rest of the developed world, there are strong checks and programmes of legislation in place to ensure that people’s health and wellness is strongly protected. It is also about maintaining access to basic resources without compromising the quality of life. The biggest hot topic for many people right now is sustainable housing and how we can better build the homes we live in from sustainable material. The final element is education – encouraging people to participate in environmental sustainability and teaching them about the effects of environmental protection as well as warning of the dangers if we cannot achieve our goals.
We all know what we need to do to protect the environment, whether that is recycling, reducing our power consumption by switching electronic devices off rather than using standby, by walking short journeys instead of taking the bus. Businesses are regulated to prevent pollution and to keep their own carbon emissions low. There are incentives to installing renewable power sources in our homes and businesses. Environmental protection is the third pillar and to many, the primary concern of the future of humanity. It defines how we should study and protect ecosystems, air quality, integrity and sustainability of our resources and focusing on the elements that place stress on the environment (6). It also concerns how technology will drive our greener future; the EPA recognized that developing technology and biotechnology is key to this sustainability, and protecting the environment of the future from potential damage that technological advances could potentially bring.
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