Environmental Protection and Sustainability

Environmental Protection and Sustainable
Development

Increasingly, environmental protection is being incorporated more broadly into all human actions and into the process of development. Meeting our needs while protecting the environment is called sustainable development.


The Evolution of Environmental Protection

Environmental protection has evolved from piecemeal local efforts to a much more comprehensive global strategy involving high levels of cooperation among states and nations covering a wide assortment of environmental problems.


The Next Generation of Environmental Protection Efforts

Although environmental policy and environmental protection efforts have evolved dramatically in the past three decades, most solutions dealt with symptoms. Efforts are now under way to address the root causes of the problems.


Creating Sustainable Solutions

All environmental problems result from the fact that human systems such as energy production and agriculture are unsustainable. They are inefficient in their use of resources, and most of them rely heavily on finite supplies of fossil fuels whose combustion creates many problems.

Meeting Human Needs While Protecting the
Environment

What is Sustainable Development?

Sustainable development is a means of meeting present needs in ways that do not impair future generations – and other species – from meeting their needs. Because the environment is essential to satisfying the needs of present and future generations, environmental protection is a key to its success.


Satisfying the Triple Bottom Line

Sustainable development requires strategies that satisfy social, economic, and environmental goals simultaneously.


Principles of Sustainable Development

Humans depend on the environment for countless goods and services that are essential to day-to-day living and the functioning of the economy.

The renewable and nonrenewable resources that support our lives have very real limits. Many signs that we have exceeded limits of the planet's resources are evident.

Living sustainably means finding ways of prospering within limits. The future of the biosphere, upon which we humans depend, is in our hands.

Intergenerational equity calls on us to live in ways that honor the needs of future generations.

Intragenerational equity calls on us to act in ways that honor the rights and needs of all people alive today.

The notion of ecological justice says that all species have a right to a clean environment and adequate resources.

Building a sustainable society will require participation by governments, businesses, and individuals.

Environmental protection and sustainable development will require cooperation of all participants.

To create a sustainable society, we must focus on strategies that address the root causes of environmental problems.


Growth and Development: Understanding the Differences

Growth and development are fundamentally different goals. Growth results in an increase in material production and consumption that may be unsustainable in the long run; development is a strategy that calls for improvements in culture that do not necessarily require further increases in resource consumption, pollution, and environmental destruction.

Human Settlements: Networks of (Unsustainable)
Systems

Human settlements are made up of many interdependent systems, such as transportation, energy, and waste management. Growing evidence shows that these systems are not sustainable in the long run.

Why Are Human Systems Unsustainable?

Although human systems may provide us with a steady stream of goods and services, they are systematically reducing the carrying capacity of the planet. Human systems (1) produce pollution in excess of the planet’s ability to absorb and detoxify wastes, (2) deplete nonrenewable resources faster than substitutes can be found, and (3) use renewable resources faster than they can be regenerated.


The Challenges Ahead

To create a sustainable future, we must revamp the systems that support our lives. The challenge is twofold: to retrofit existing systems to make them as sustainable as possible and to build new systems using the principles of sustainable design.

Applying the Principles of Sustainable Development

Operating Principles

Creating a society that is sustainable requires a number of steps: (1) population stabilization, (2) growth management, (3) efficiency, (4) renewable energy use, (5) recycling, (6) restoration, and (7) sustainable resource management.


Applying the Operating Principles to Human Systems

The systems approach streamlines the sustainable development process. It provides a framework to organize and address complicated issues. Systems are often interdependent; thus, decisions in one system often affect others. People involved in drafting sustainable development plans are encouraged to group interrelated systems and tackle them together.

Sustainable development will require root-level solutions.