Environmental sustainability: a mirage?


Trying to get mature adults to agree on a concrete definition of “sustainability” is by far one of the hardest jobs. Although various organizations and thought leaders have tried their best to explore, analyze and boil it down to a precise meaning without success, there seems to be a common environmental, societal and economic thread that runs through them all. Northwest Environment Watch, a Seattle-based nonprofit research and communication center, has, in my opinion, given a definition that is by far the most appropriate. He said sustainability is “an economy and a way of life where both people and nature flourish, a culture that can endure.” Executive Order 00-07, signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber of the State of Oregon, in May 2000 says that, “Sustainability means using, developing and protecting resources at a rate and in a way that allows people to meet their current needs and also provides that future generations can meet their needs.” own needs”. .” He also goes a step further by saying that “sustainability requires simultaneously meeting environmental, economic, and community needs.” This again almost correlates with the post from Northwest Environment Watch. Let us now venture into exploring three of the most critical and Let’s discuss their roles in achieving the goal of sustainability.

World population growth

Agenda 21, The Earth Summit Strategy to Save Our Planet. (Sitarz 1993) explains very well the relationship between demographic growth and the planet’s environmental health: “The dizzying growth of the world’s population feeds the growth of global production and consumption. The rapid increase in demand for natural resources, employment , education and social services makes any attempt to protect natural resources and improve living standards very difficult. There is an immediate need to develop strategies aimed at controlling the growth of the world’s population.” (p. 44)

Scientists have been emphasizing for a long time that the Earth, if we believe in the fact that it is a spherical surface, does have a capacity and a limit to which it can transport or support. The Population of the planet, increasing by leaps and bounds, will soon lead to full utilization of the World’s Natural Resources which are being depleted. As May (May 1993) observes: “…the scale and scope of human activities have grown, for the first time, to rival the natural processes that built the biosphere and maintain it as a place where life can thrive.” Many facts attest to this statement. It is that somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of the earth’s primary productivity, from plant photosynthesis on land and in the sea, is now appropriated for human use. “. This really is cause for alarm. If we continue to grow the population at the current rate, we would be in a situation where sustainability would be a myth. Therefore, at no time should population growth be considered in isolation. Its growth in relation to the depletion of Natural Resources on the planet is what increases concern.

Governments, Associations and Individuals of credibility, have continually met and expressed opinions that “something” must be done to “save life and the planet”. Global Warming has been a topic on an agenda, in almost all the summits. But all that came out of the discussions and the so-called “action plans” are vague terms like “we need to control the population.” It has never moved towards action measures to actually stop population growth. The Report called Agenda 21, The Earth Summit Strategy to Save Our Planet, under the title of “National Population Policies” states that: “All nations must fully understand the long-term consequences of human population growth They must quickly formulate and implement appropriate programs to cope with the inevitable increase in population.” (p. 45). Surprisingly, such reports are continually contradicted. First, they don’t lay out concrete steps to stop the growth, even as they downplay the total problem at hand. On the one hand they say that there is an immediate need to “control” population growth to achieve the goal of sustainability. With the same encouragement, they point out that population growth is “inevitable”. So when they believe that Population Growth is inevitable regardless, their claim to take “appropriate measures” to slow or Control Population growth makes Sustainability sound like an oxymoron. It is not like this?

Consumer Oriented Lifestyle

In light of the above definitions of Sustainability, the consumer-oriented lifestyle is best analyzed through an Environmental Social Practices Approach. We have been blaming an increasing population for an environmental crisis on underdeveloped and developing nations until now. Apart from the fact that our homeland is not a lesser evil in this regard either, there is a bigger problem of our consumer oriented lifestyle which is contributing substantially to depleting existing natural resources and has become a major issue that should be addressed to achieve the goal of sustainability.

According to professor dr. gonna. G. Saracen in his Social Practices Approach to Environmental Policy Formulation; theory, methodology and policy development for sustainable household consumption, “The Social Practices Approach offers an integrative model to analyze and understand transitions towards sustainable consumption at the level of everyday life.” He also says that individual consumers “make ‘cases’ regarding the environmental dimension of their lifestyles and provide legitimacy and rationale for the choices they make in different segments of their lifestyles.” The three main consumption needs of an individual in a society, namely, home and maintenance, food consumption, travel and transportation, have led to rapid urbanization and housing construction, increasing vehicle and road construction, preparation of food and factory building. As you can see, a consumer-oriented approach is directly proportional to industrialization, which in turn directly affects the environment with the depletion of natural resources. When the need of the day is to rapidly increase Agricultural Opportunities to counteract the depletion of the Environment’s Natural Assets, isn’t a Consumer Oriented Lifestyle with its need for livelihood a contradiction to achieving the goal of sustainability?


The last topic we would explore is the role of stewardship. Sustainability is no longer an individual problem or problem. Although the life of every individual on this planet is affected, the magnitude of the problem is so vast that no department or government can be held responsible. It is a global problem and must be addressed collectively. The neglect until the moment of assigning a direct responsibility, has been one of the biggest problems of not acting in the direction of reaching the goal. Therefore, each individual, each government, each organization or association body, and each educational institution has to be responsible, take measures to achieve the goal of sustainability.

That being said, the second aspect of stewardship that needs to be addressed is “who leads?” We in the United States, being the most developed, have a direct role in guiding the world towards the goal. As they say the best way to lead is by example. “Our own country is the largest polluter on Earth, generating more greenhouse gases, especially CO2, than any other country. Not a word, but through binding action, our nation has an inescapable moral duty to lead the way toward solutions genuinely effective. We … urge our government to change national policy so that the United States begins to ease, not increase, the burdens on our biosphere and its effect on the people of the planet.” (Joint Appeal of Religion and Science for the Environment “MISSION STATEMENT TO WASHINGTON” Washington, DC, May 12, 1992) What action steps have we actually taken so far since then?


Simply put: the word “sustainability” has continually been used so freely. If it is a sustained effort to heal today for a better tomorrow, what have we done for the immediate present? Every outcome of a meeting, every conclusion of a summit, has been filled with the redundant use of vague terminologies such as “efforts will be made”, “control will be exerted”, “population growth reduction”, etc. It has been interspersed with blame games. But has no one ever deliberately answered the specific question of “How”? It is about time we did this, unless all of us living today, all governments in power and all responsible organizations want to be held accountable for the total extinction of the human species on earth.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *