Making sustainable development meaningful

By GKM Towfique Hassan via The Financial Express


Is sustainable development a misnomer? Controversy surfaces when we talk about sustainable development many a time. Many people argue that sustainable development does not take into account issues like degradation of environment, destruction of social values and exploitation of economic situation and even at times compromising the scope of future generation's growth and development. However, if we take a close look at it, analyse and look for appropriate answers, it becomes evident that sustainable development is inseparable from environment, social values and economic prosperity. This is because sustainable development looks for up-gradation of human life, lesser inequality in income, reduction of poverty and effective and efficient performance of social institutions.

In the present day world of market economy, it is the capitalistic system that asserts the most economic might. As such, exploitation at times is integral to so called prosperity. This reminds me of a film named "Wall Street" where the villain started a speech with the word "Greed is good". To some, this expression, in a way, is reaffirmation of Adam Smith's economic philosophy. It is, however, argued that pursuit of self interest in a highly competitive globalised world might also ensure common good. However, a ruthless move to seek power and wealth may lead to destruction only. The unfettered capitalistic process of development has its ramification of aggression, crime, violence, war etc that is sure to have a dehumanising effect on the society.

Therefore, sustainable development in order to be meaningful must have actionable programmes to safeguard environment in a longer perspective as well as ensuring social justice and peaceful resolution of differences in political decision making. In such an atmosphere, let us go by the opinion of Harlem Brundtland, Chairman of WCED that "what is needed now is a new era of economic growth-growth that is forceful and at the same time socially and   economically sustainable".

Different organisations concerned with sustainable development view it to encompass social and environmental dimensions. Only then poverty alleviation, improvement of social values and reduction in the mal-distribution of income and wealth can be expected to be ensured.

There are divergent views among developmentalists and conservationists. Even then they have a common goal of sustainable growth, though their approaches may differ. The ultimate aim is the improvement in Human Development Index. As such, a balance is necessary to support development while protecting environment and improving social and moral values.

There has been a move, of late, to conserve bi-diversity in line with MDGs and SGDs provisions for development. There is a difference of opinion as to the reasons for the poor to be more dependent on bio-diversity. Mostly, they are deprived of other natural resources to have a better livelihood. As such, excessive utilisation of natural resources by the poor contributes to environmental degradation. On the other hand, industrialisation in the developed world has already harmed the environment more than anything else. It has been estimated that every year about 120 million tons of sulphur dioxide and around 40 million tons of nitrogen oxide and 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released into the environment causing enough of threat of an unliveable planet. Given the state of the degradation caused by activities mostly from factories and industries, it is highly important that a lot needs to be done on how best to improve the environment in order to render more sense to the idea of sustainable development.

The writer is Adjunct Faculty at Primeasia, Southeast and BGMEAUniversity of Fashion & Technology. hassan.