By Lily Cronin - International Relations degree student
Sustainable Development is in some variable possible, as long as we communally re-define it. Putting the words sustainable and development together provokes the idea that they go hand-in-hand, or that they at least have the strong possibility to do so. If we continue the rapid development that our consumerist culture is so obsessed with, and to not be conscious of the effects our everyday actions have, there is no way to be environmentally, and in most cases, socioeconomically sustainable either. The proposal that sustainable development is a western construct can be proven true when we break apart the way that larger, westworld nations benefit from other smaller, less developed nations, and the difficulties these nations have changing. Also, when we recognize the western world luxuries that have systematically taken place of the things that we need to live our everyday lives, to benefit a larger scheme, called corporation and corruption.
Sustainable Development means development, that does not hinder future generations accessibility to natural resource, or to meet their needs, as we do. Lindsay and Dahlman (2020) inform that “the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998, and 9 of the 10 have occurred since 2005”. And all global temperature data shows an upward trend, just to discard any ideas that we can develop the way we are, without worrying about the effect it has on our planet. If it's so obvious, why aren’t we doing anything about it? Many believe it is because of power-nations like the US and China, who have built the economies that the rest of the world looks up to by building factories that run on fossil fuels and providing accessible transportation, and cheap production of plastic for consumer goods like, water bottles. But, at the end of the day, would people from those countries, who enjoy luxury and have integrated it into their everyday lives want to change?
The Forest Preserves (2014) states that “the average US household produces 7.5 tons of CO2 equivalents per year”. This is where the recommendation is made that to continue developing would be absolutely unsustainable, as the way we live now is already unsustainable. The west world considers development as something that is faster, easier, and cheaper, while countries like those in Africa, that have a rich history of living sustainably and in-tune with the nature around them and see climate change first-hand, seem to have a better grasp. Consider how much more these countries do in effort to reduce emissions, and yet they still suffer the most due to their fragile, vulnerable eco-systems.
Nathan Curry (2013) says that “seventy percent of emissions have been produced by the richest 20 percent of the population—and the World Bank has estimated that 75–80 percent of the effects of climate change are being felt by the least developed countries”. Westworld countries are exploiting poor countries for their natural resources, paying no mind to how they depend on them for income. Even if the smaller countries, like throughout Latin America, really wanted to change their practices, they can’t afford to, with a true dependence on other nations, as well as a lack of representation. So, how do we begin to talk about change when the countries causing the biggest problems seem to think change is not coherent with their economic priority?
Only after comprehending the severity of our situation and making the spread of genuine, factual information a serious priority, may we begin to take serious steps towards a better, more sustainable future. Starting with an understanding that, in order to let generations after us survive, we have to start taking steps backwards. Beginning to re-develop the things we already did, but in a way that takes into account the condition of our planet and the ability of all of its inhabitants to move in current with the changes and growth. A complete re-focus onto environment and away from economy would need to be pursued by all major corporations. To elaborate, the rate at which the economy moves, 3% per year, we would be using 95 billion metric tons of natural resource by 2050. German researcher Monika Dittrich, follows this research saying that 50 million tons a year would be sustainable (Hickel, 2018). Many countries are aware of the amount of CO2 they emit, but feel that, no matter what, resource will be used, and they refuse to take responsibility, because within this responsibility is a loss of economic gain and power. And, until we communally re-define this idea of sustainability and of development, we are heading down irreversible, terrifying truth.
Though environmental sustainability is a western construct in current connotation, it can be re-defined to exaggerate the importance of the survival of our planet and the incorporation of human rights for all. There is no time for deniability, the interdependence between long-term/short-term environmental sustainability and economic development prove the role that big corporation and money play in the advancement of environmental policy. It’s important to hear voices of indigenous people who have been living in sync with the earth for centuries. We need to take a step back from the industrialized world that we have become so comfortable in, and to listen to the world telling us that development, in this manner, is something constructed to seem sustainable, when in reality, it most certainly is not.