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Why Is Sustainable Development Important?

Jared Skye
Solar panels and wind turbines

Sustainable development is a difficult subject to pin down since it encompasses so many different things. Due to the complexity of this subject, it's important to look at the importance of sustainable development in a holistic way that approaches the issue rationally.

What Is Sustainable Development?

Sustainable development is an approach to development that considers the finite resources of the Earth and works to create a system that is "sustainable". This process is only sustainable if it can keep going indefinitely into the future.

  • Sustainable development most commonly refers to the use of renewable energy resources.
  • It can mean creating sustainable agriculture or forestry practices.
  • Sustainable development is also applied to create sustainable mineral use practices.

Value of Sustainable Development

It's no secret that people are living longer and that the global population is on the rise. In fact, Our World in Data calculates there will be 11.2 billion people living on the Earth by the year 2100. This population explosion is perhaps one of the greatest reasons why sustainable development is so important.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources like wind power and solar power are excellent examples of development strategies that are sustainable. There are countless advantages to using renewable energies. A few reasons why each one is considered a valuable energy source for sustainable energy incldue:

  • Each energy sources is reliant on natural resources that are constant and seemingly infinite.
  • Both resources are free.
  • With the right technology/equipment, anyone can access these energy resources.
  • These factors make wind and solar power highly sustainable resources.

Economics of Sustainable Development

Sustainable development doesn't always refer to just environmental sustainability or other green topics. Sustainable development also needs to have an economic and social sustainability component. These include:

  • Ability to use resources for long-term sustainability.
  • Resources can be sustained and used for optimal purposes.
  • The resources can be safeguarded, used, recovered, and recycled for optimum economic sustainability.

Provide Basic Human Needs

A rising population places an increase on the bare essentials of life, such as food, water and shelter. The provision of these essentials is dependent on an infrastructure that can sustain this growth for the long-term. If energy is continually developed based on finite fossil fuels instead of sustainable fuels, the cost and environmental toll for supplying even basic needs will become staggering.

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability takes into account the way a business impacts not just employees, but vendors, customers, and the local community. This includes the positive and negative impacts.

How a Company Is Evaluated

The management, practices and principles of the company's operations are evaluated and how each plays a role in the company's various business and community relationships. Some of the points of interest when assessing a company's social sustainability include, social equity, community development involvement, social responsibility for supporting humanity, upholding human rights, and sustainability within these and other parameters.

Protect Technological Resources

The people coming into this world are immediately part of an increasingly technological. They, along with more people than ever, are relying on technology for nearly every aspect of their lives.

Natural Resources Required by Technological Developments

Of course, these technologies are not built out of thin air and good intentions. They require a significant array of minerals and other materials simply to be manufactured. This doesn't take into account the amount of resources needed to facilitate their development in the first place.

Agricultural Necessity

Agriculture will have to catch up with that growing population as well, figuring out ways to feed around 3 billion more people. If the same unsustainable tilling, seeding, watering, spraying, and harvesting methods are used into the future, they will become very costly, especially if fossil fuel resources run out.

Field of lettuce

Ways to Create Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture practices like crop rotation and effective seeding practices can help to promote high yields. These practices can protect the integrity of the soil as it produces food for larger amounts of people.

Accommodate City Development

As populations rise, cities will need to become larger to accommodate the influx of new residents. If these cities were developed to be non-sustainable, they'll require additional buildings that will be more and more expensive to build and maintain over time.

Modern city with solar panel in foreground

Higher Cost to Build Cities

This means the resources being used to develop the cities will be finite fossil fuels that will only get more expensive as they run out over time. The higher volume of these fuels required to produce energy for this larger population will also negatively impact the air quality of cities.

Using Sustainable Development to Solve Costs

If cities use sustainable development practices, they can conceivably make way for new housing and business developments indefinitely. The prohibitive costs from using fossil fuels become a mote point in the light of sustainable resources.

Climate Change and Sustainable Development

Climate change is another issue that many believe can be partially addressed by employing sustainable development. Sustainable development practices would mandate a lower use of fossil fuels, which are not sustainable and produce greenhouse gases. Sustainable development practices should put less a strain on natural unsustainable resources. According to current beliefs about climate change, this would have a lesser impact on the world climate.

Sustainable Development Impact on Finance

Sustainable finance addresses all forms of financial services. These services are combined with various sustainable aspects, such as technology, environmental, social, etc. These aspects govern how an investment decision is made. The goal is to make a choice that will have sustainable and long-lasting benefits to the investor and the overall growth and social health of the community.

Provide Financial Stability

Sustainable development can also produce more financially sustainable economies throughout the world. Resource-poor economies will gain access to free and accessible energy through renewables while also having the opportunity to train workers for jobs that won't be eliminated when finite resources are gone.

Jobs and Sustainable Development

Jobs built around the "old" model of unsustainable development won't have a place in sustainable economies of the future. This has nothing to do with politics or ethics, but rather the bare mechanics of how economies price out finite resources over time.

Future of Industries Reliant on Unsustainable Resources

Industries built around a reliance of an unsustainable resource that won't be accessible in the future will ultimately fail. This mean the only solution for future industry is through sustainable development.

Sustain Biodiversity

Biodiversity suffers through overconsumption and unsustainable development practices. Beyond the basic ethical quandary presented by this fact, there is the further concern that these species are a part of a foodweb that humans rely on.

Bee on clover flower

Agricultural Practices Impact on Biodiversity

Unsustainable agricultural practices can have a devastating effect on the pollinator population around the world. Weakened bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticides and other agricultural pollutants become susceptible to diseases due to damaged immune systems.

  • Without bees, at least 19 major food crops would suffer.
  • Without bees, nearly 50% of the food in most grocery stores would be nonexistent.
  • Poor farming practices and urban development negatively impact the oceans with pollutants, which are home to a significant amount of algae species, such as kelp that humans rely on for a major portion of the oxygen they breathe.

Sustainable Development's Impact on Developing Countries

The current urbanization of developing countries weakens their ability to rise out of poverty. However, sustainable development is recognized as a potential way these developing countries can build their cities with a reliable infrastructure.

Harnessing Free Energy

The use of sustainable practices may provide a way to reverse poverty and its negative impact. Developing countries have the opportunity for growth and financial development when employing sustainable practices. Free energy from the sun or wind means these countries can excel when unencumbered or trapped by the use of costly fossil fuels.

Speaking Plainly About Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is cleaner and more efficient than non-sustainable development. As the population grows, more non-renewable resources will be used. Over enough time, sustainable development will be the only available option for cities and regional development.

Why Is Sustainable Development Important?