An Essay on the Meaning of Sustainable Development

Topics: Sustainability, Sustainable development, Natural capital Pages: 6 (1920 words) Published: May 9, 2011



In this essay I will discuss what sustainable development means? I will also discuss weak and strong approaches to sustainability and how this is related to sustainable development. Finally I will discuss how Isaac Construction in Christchurch has adopted sustainable development practices. In order to somewhat understand what sustainable development means, you must first separate the two words and view them both individually.

Development and sustainability discussion:

Firstly, development can be seen as progress and growth which builds over time at both societal and individual levels. There are also three senses in which the word development is used. They are; a vision/measure, an historical process and lastly a deliberate effort for development (Thomas A., 2000, p. 29). An example of this is when using economic development in the context of the three senses: a vision of economic wealth for a country, capitalism creating growth over time and lastly a development company that deliberately helps to create growth. Most importantly though, development means reaching full human potential (Thomas. A., 2000, p. 32-33). Sustainability can be more difficult to explain because the word has no consensual definition, much like concept words “liberty’’ and “justice” (Sustainability, Wikipedia). It is best to first consider the many meanings of the word sustain to help simplify things. A few examples of sustain meanings are; to support, to bear, to keep up or keep going (Sustain definition, With that in mind and when used in context with environmental and economic for example we get an idea of what sustainability means. Environmental sustainability and economic sustainability for example both depend on the ecological carrying capacity, because sustainability was originally “associated with maintenance of environmental quality” (as cited in Bell, S., & Morse, S. 1999, p. 6). “The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely” (as cited in Carrying capacity, Wikipedia, para. 1). Therefore as humans, sustainability can be seen as preserving resources and natural ecosystems while maintaining our population. Simply put it, “sustainability is improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems” (as cited in Sustainability, Wikipedia, para. 7). One final aspect is over what time scale sustainability should occur? How many generations, just the present generation or 100 generations? The answer is that it all depends on the type of systems and also the spatial scale such as a small village, country or even the whole planet (Bell, S., & Morse, S. 1999, p.13 & 14). An example of this is a small fishing village. They only need to maintain fish stock from generation to generation, but globally fish stocks need to be maintained over multiple generations so it is shared equally. Now we get a somewhat better understanding of what sustainable development means. From what I have already written, we get an idea that sustainable development is a system of growth and progress that is within the carry capacities of natural systems and is sustained over multiple generations. Still this meaning is vague and only encompasses environmental sustainability. This view is seen as a strong approach to sustainable development. I will now discuss weak versus strong approaches, and then we will gain a full understanding of sustainable development.

Main Discussion:

There are two different thoughts of sustainable development. They are weak sustainability and strong sustainability .Weak sustainability is a human-centred, growth-orientated approach to economic development. With no consideration to people’s demands on Earths resources and that the...
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