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How sustainable development is important to humanity?

“Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship, and strengthen governance.” - Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the UN.


Sustainable development can be a difficult topic to pin down in the mould of a single definition, as it embraces so many different aspects all at once. This definition, as quoted in the Encyclopedia of Ecology, comes closest to giving a holistic view – “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

With the Earth’s resources already stretched thin and the human population exploding at an unprecedented rate – a UN report predicts that there will be 9.8 billion people living on the planet by 2050– sustainable development is no longer a luxury but a necessity for the survival of humanity. Here’s why:

To Meet the Basic Human Needs

If we mindlessly continue to harness fossil fuels for meeting our energy needs, the environmental pressures and cost of catering to basic human needs such as water, food, and shelter will be staggering in the future.

Putting Food on the Table

Increased population will automatically mean an increased demand for food, which cannot be met through the current methods of land tilling, watering, seeding, spraying, and harvesting. Research indicates that export of agricultural produce to 6 industrialised nation - US, UK, Canada, Japan, Germany and France - alone leads to the generation of 1.2 million tonnes of methane annually. Farming communities will have to take fossil fuel and chemicals out to the equation and focus on sustainable practices such as crop rotation and seeding to preserve the integrity of the soil and generate high yields.

 Having Cities to Live In

Continued reliance on finite natural resource to build infrastructure and meet our energy demands will render our cities uninhabitable in the future rather than making them capable of accommodating the rising population. The path-breaking development in Dubai, for instance, which was once a small fishing village and the trading port has yielded the largest per capita carbon footprint owing to emissions alone. Sustainable housing, development policies, energy generation are the only viable long-term alternative available to us.

Controlling Climate Change

One of the biggest concerns stemming from our continued abuse of earth’s natural resources is the changing climate of our planet due to greenhouse emission, growing carbon footprint, and increasing pollution levels. Our modernised lifestyles have increased our energy needs sixfold, 90 per cent of which is met through burning of fossil fuels. This has also caused global temperatures to rise by 1C since the advent of industrialisation. Sustainable development practices are our only hope to cap this temperature change at under 2C and partially remedy the situation.

Providing Financial Stability

Sustainable development and financial stability may seem like mutually exclusive terms to many, but it is the only way forward to build more stable economies around the world. Industries relying on finite resources to carry out their operations are bound to crumble and crash once these resources run out. Replacing these with accessible and renewable alternatives is a futuristic approach to financial stability.

Sustainable Development is Non-Negotiable

There is no argument that sustainable development is non-negotiable. It is a cleaner alternative to our present way of life that has greater long-term potential to bring about stability.


(Image: Reuters)