The accelerated rate of human development and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources are forcing dramatic changes on our Planet. This essay examines the various facets of human interactions and their interface with the environment towards achieving a sustainable future.
The essay first explains the concept of sustainable development and how it is important for the government, industry and communities to cooperate together to build sustainable development.
The essay then explains the dangers of overloading the ecosystem yb quoting the example of the Great American Dustbowl ecological disaster.
To prevent such disasters from happening would require concepts like stewardship to take hold, which is then explained in the essay. The examples of US LEED initiative, Green architecture and Green cars are then explained as also the New York City recycling project.
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is then examined to explain that industries too have a responsibility in ensuring conservation and not look only at profitability. The essay then argues that proactive community measures at the individual level are most important for developing a sustainable future.
The essay concludes by stating that a sustainable future would require global consensus on matters relating to sustainable exploitation of the resources, evolving best practices, policies and laws governing all human activities so that future generations have a self generating resilient global ecosystem which will provide the requisite physical, food, water, health, economic and social security.
Requirements for a Sustainable Society
The accelerated rate of human development and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources are forcing dramatic changes on our Planet. Global warming is just one such warning sign that the delicate global ecosystem is very near the ‘tipping’ scale. Therefore, it devolves upon the human race to find solutions so that man and nature can harmonize their needs to ensure a sustainable future. This essay examines the various facets of human interactions and their interface with the environment towards achieving a sustainable future.
There are many prerequisites for developing a sustainable society. One of them is ‘Sustainable Development’ which is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Beratan 3). Hence a stable and secure economy, optimal exploitation of natural resources, ecological balance and a stable society are vital. Ensuring such a challenging set of prerequisites requires a whole community effort. Not only are the politicians, economists, technocrats, businessmen, environmentalists and academicians are required but also the common man whose wholehearted participation in sustainable future measures is critical.
Ecosystem resilience can be defined as “the abilities of an ecosystem to recover in the wake of disturbance, to evolve, and to adapt flexibly to new conditions, reflect self-organizing capacities” (Breckenridge 298). Ecosystems can adapt to gradual changes and gradual losses as long as the changes incorporated lie within the recuperative range of the ecosystem. For example, rampant exploitation of the American Grasslands since the early days of settlement and converting the vast grass lands of the Great Plains into ranches and agricultural lands for wheat growing upset the natural ecological balance.
This action converted the Great Plains into a vast ‘dustbowl’ causing sickness and economic hardships to thousands of Americans and was rated “as the nation’s worst prolonged environmental disaster” (Egan 10). Moment the change wrought is disruptive beyond the recuperative range, an ecosystem fails. It was only after strenuous government efforts to reforest and letting the area be claimed by nature have the Great Plains partially recovered. However to give shape to such recuperative measures requires adherence to principles such as stewardship.
Stewardship implies that everyone in this world has a responsibility to other people and the world. Stewardship in business encompasses ethical management of all activities involved in production, use and disposal of goods produced which includes a responsibility to ensure safe handling throughout the life cycle of the product in use. This means conforming to the ethics, not taking shortcuts, following the laws of the land in letter and spirit, inculcating sustainable practices and promoting awareness to customers, employees and the general public.
The US LEED initiative1 aims at bringing green building into the mainstream to counter the effects of the housing boom in the Untied States which led to rapid deforestation increased import of tropical rainforest timber. According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study, building a green house right from the design stage can save as much as 40 percent of a building’s utility bills for heating, cooling, and ventilation. Thus common swimming pools, common rainwater harvesting plants, and common gardens, all green features are becoming a norm. It has been estimated that on an average, car pollution accounts for almost 20 percent of CO2 generated in midsized cities.
So it makes sense to take measures to reduce this pollution by any way possible. The ‘Green’ car concept looks at making cars environmentally friendly such as those running on LPG, CNG and Hybrid Cars2. In governance, the concept of stewardship is of paramount importance. It is important for the political class to understand that implementing sustainable policies involves practicing of supportive politics. The finest example has been the New York City Recycling initiative which has reduced the levels of garbage production considerably3.
The recent trends in ensuring a sustainable future is now encompassing all aspects of human endeavor. These include using green technologies and green architecture4 to incorporating conservation methods and recycling for buildings, houses and business practices. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which is defined as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large” (KPMG 7) has gathered greater momentum.
The international community is no longer leaving sustainability to the realms of academic discussions but is taking measures by which conservation and optimum utilization of resources is promoted proactively. This is being done by enacting strict country specific environmental protection laws as also voluntary enactments which enhance brand value. The World Wildlife Fund recommends that ensuring a sustainable future would involve, tackling climate change, ensuring food and water security and drawing up a plan for sustainable resource management (WWF 2).
The community too can help in a long way to build a sustainable society. Carpooling can help reduce the number of vehicles on the road and thus reduce air pollution. Adults and students should make the most use of their computers and cell phones and submit their transactions, work electronically to save paper. People must continue using their laptops and cell phones till the end of their life cycle and not junk them because the models have gone old or ‘out of fashion’.
Americans must make use of Mass Rapid Transportation available and desist from ‘hitting the road’ every weekend in their big cars and communities must discourage the sale of SUVs5 that guzzle gas and create pollution. Americans have longed considered bath water as waste water. This perception has to change now; bath water can easily be recycled for garden irrigation by installing a small self contained plant in the house’s basement. Communities can also help increase conservation awareness amongst people by holding road shows, seminars, community programs and taking concerted actions to force their governments to bring in ‘Green legislations’ and discourage manipulation by big businesses interests.
These are just some of the initiatives that are required to be taken. In the conclusion it can be emphatically stated that humanity’s future will depend on its ability to form global consensus on matters relating to sustainable exploitation of the resources, evolving best practices, policies and laws governing all human activities so that future generations have a self generating resilient global ecosystem which will provide the requisite physical, food, water, health, economic and social security.
- The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.The United States LEED initiative looks at promoting green buildings to reduce the load on the environment. For further details see US Green Building Councils. Web.
- The aim is to design cars which will have a zero or low pollution footprint. Some of the low pollution footprint initiatives that have already been put into practice has been the introduction of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as alternative fuel in the market. We now have companies manufacturing electric cars which run on batteries and produce no air pollution whatsoever. Some hybrid designs look at combining an electric drive with a petrol back up. The Toyota Prius Hybrid being one such initiative. Honda’s FCX concept car uses Hydrogen cell system which reportedly travels 560 kms on a 5 kg hydrogen tank that is roughly equal to one full tank worth of gas driven by an SUV. What is so ‘green’ about this concept? Well the waste product generated is – water. For more details see All About Hybrid Cars. Web.
- In 1989, New York City launched an ambitious recycling program that included every city neighborhood as well as junk metal and household metal recycling. By 2002, the city was recycling roughly 20 percent of its waste up from 1 percent when the program started saving over $ 40 million per year. The New York Times of 2004 reported that New Yorkers have been taking active participation in the program by installing vermicompost containers in their households to convert leftovers into manure. Web.
- Michael o Sullivan reports in the Washington Times on the different methods, tools and designs displayed at the exhibition “The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design” and what people are doing to sustain green architecture. Web.
- The D.C. Council approved legislation yesterday that will require District owners of large, luxury sport-utility vehicles to pay a higher excise tax and registration fee next year, after concluding that the vehicles contribute to air pollution and street damage. Web.
Beratan, Kathy K. “Pointing Pennsylvania Toward a Sustainable Future.” 2006. Web.
Breckenridge, Lee P. “Can Fish Own Water?: Envisioning Nonhuman Property in Ecosystems.” Journal of Land Use Vol 20:2. 2005 (2005): 293-335.
Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton MIfflin Harcourt, 2006.
KPMG. “Corporate Social Responsibility –Towards a Sustainable Future.” 2008. Web.
WWF. “Leading the World Toward a Safer and Sustainable Future:GREENPRINT FOR A NEW ADMINISTRATION.” 2008. World Wildlife Fund. Web.