“Environmental sustainability is the ability to maintain the qualities that are valued in the physical environment” . Analysts, environmentalists, and researchers had been scratching their heads to predict the outcome of the inconsiderate course through which we are heading, for very long. And each time, the data they receive shows that the news doesn’t bode too well for the future. The population explosion, the environmental depletion, and unsustainable resource exploitation had, almost, depleted the natural balance in our ecosystem.
“Environmental sustainability could be defined as a condition of balance, resilience, and interconnectedness that allows human society to satisfy its needs while neither exceeding the capacity of its supporting ecosystems to continue to regenerate the services necessary to meet those needs nor by our actions diminishing biological diversity” . But the current research and data show that we have passed the point of sustenance a long time ago.
The environment that we live in is no longer capable to function on its own because of the inconsiderate development projects that we undertook in the past that resulted in 1. Destruction of habitats of native species 2. Discharge of polluting materials into the environment 3. Emission of greenhouses gases 4. Depletion of non renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels and 5. Rapid rise in population.
Our energy consumption habits and incompatible resource usage have caused many adverse effects such as 1. Global warming 2. Ozone layer depletion 3. Deforestation 4. Pollution, etc. The debate, for many years, had been in trying to find methods with which we can recover from these pitfalls in the path to sustenance. But how effective can any method be? Or are we so lost in this path that we are destined to be doomed?
The story of environmental sustainability has drawn attentions from many scholars who either stand by or against the concerns raised by many. These people include the 1. Optimists 2. Pessimists and 3. Moderates. The optimists are still hopeful of an innovative future that can ensure our recovery. The pessimists are the people who argue that our world is headed for inevitable doom and the moderates have drawn a fine line between the frantic fears of pessimists and blind hopefulness of optimists. But who is more right in this front?
“Seventeenth-century thinkers such as Descartes and Bacon thought that science and technology unlocked the keys to mankind’s mastery over nature, which they saw as synonymous with human progress” . On a similar note, optimists trust in the capabilities of innovative technologies to solve our new crisis. They believe that technology is the answer to new crisis.
And the fact is that they are not really farfetched in their assumptions about technology after all. For example, using biotechnology, many genetically modified crops have been developed that are resilient to drought conditions. These crops had been successfully grown in deserts or even rooftops in large scale to meet the need for agricultural lands and feed the rising population.
Biotechnology has also helped scientists develop organisms that can filter polluted water as well as cleanse disastrous oil spills. Artificial preservation and breeding techniques has helped us reestablish some of the lost gene pools and natural varieties of medicinal as well as highly fruitful plants. Endangered species had been bred and raised in captivity to be later released into natural habitats later. Technology has, therefore, helped us rectify some of our past mistakes.
We have seen in the past that many activities that we begin for the betterment of the general population, often ends up hurting the balance of our ecosystem. Like the invention of pesticides that ended up creating a highly withstanding and immune variety of pests in the future or invention of antibiotics that ended up creating viruses and bacteria that are highly resilient to any medicine, we are often ignorant of the long term consequences of many things we create. So to fully understand the effectiveness of strategies we implement towards sustenance, we need time.
But the problems we are now facing are believed to be increasing exponentially. Problems such as population growth, pollution, climate change, are all keeping an exponential growth rate. These are much more difficult to handle in short time. Even though technology has come up with many innovative methods or remedies they were not successful enough to even marginally check this trend. Therefore, these environmental issues are still growing at an alarming rate.
Even though it took many years, we have identified the threats of not including environment as a factor while making plans for future. The World Climate Summit 2015 held in Paris symbolizes a hope for recovery. All nations, developing, developed and underdeveloped, came together alike, to discuss the problems faced by our world as a result of unhealthy growth strategies that we followed till now. Every nation signed pacts to check development schemes that may affect our environment adversely in the long run.
Environmental assessment is already a mandatory step before setting up any factory, mines, manufacturing unit, etc in many countries. The criticism and fine attracted by the world’s largest car manufacturer, Volkswagen, for cheating on effluent tests, is also another example of the change that is currently going in our world.
So unlike what pessimists believe, the world is not yet doomed. But the only issue is that technology alone isn’t going to help us to make a change for the future. We need the collective input of all the members of this society to work towards it. With the Paris Summit, we have ensured the participation from all nations, working towards a sustainable future. So for now, we still have hope left with us. And we are, hopefully, on a path to redemption.
Moreli, John. "Environmental Sustainability: A Definition for Environmental Professionals." Journal of Environmental Sustainability (2011): 1-8.
Sutton, Phillip. "A Perspective on environmental sustainability." 4 April 2004. Green Innovations. 2 February 2016 <http://www.green-innovations.asn.au/A-Perspective-on-Environmental-Sustainability.pdf>.
Vergragt, Phillip J. "How Technology could contribute to a Sustainable World." 2006. GreatTransition. 2 February 2016 <http://www.greattransition.org/archives/papers/How_Technology_Could_Contribute_to_a%20Sustainable_World.pdf>.