Why we should care about sustainability
In recent decades, our society has adopted a “bigger is better” principal which has led to a mad rush of over-production and over-consumption that is slowly but surely guiding us on a downward spiral towards a global crisis. We are just starting to understand the implications that our current way of life is having on the world – the threat of global warming comes to mind. Yet society is still hesitant to make changes. We like our current way of life, and the concept of the “future” is almost too big to comprehend, so we continue to choose immediate or short-term benefit over long term success. A striking example of the economic reality that our world is facing as a result of climate change was outlined in a report issued in 2007 by the Head of the Government Economics Service in the United Kingdom, Nicholas Stern. In his report, Stern provides an approximation to the costs associated with the current global warming crisis. He estimates that if we continue along our present path, the total costs and risks associated with climate change will be equivalent to losing 5% of the global GDP each year, with the estimate rising to 20% as the risks increase with time. This is in contrast to the estimated costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, projected to be around 1% of the global GDP yearly. In light of these statistics, society’s reluctance to invest in lifestyle changes now that will benefit the good of our future world appears irrational and downright unintelligent.
Many believe that the answer to the current problems facing our world comes in the form of sustainable development. In the most general sense, sustainable development, as defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development back in 1987, means to live in a way that ensures the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs. The ideal end goal of sustainability is to create a world in which we borrow from our natural resources, not take from them, and in the process leave no lasting negative impacts on the planet. Some may agree with the comments made by American author Kai Kee, who said “sustainability is not a condition likely to be attained on earth as we know it. Rather it is more like freedom and justice, a direction in which we strive”. This may be so, but there is an obligation to try our best to achieve sustainability, possible or not, because our future on this planet depends on it.