The tradition concept of development has for a considerable period of time been driven by economic considerations. Exploitation of natural resources which leads to environmental degradation motivated by targets of maximum profits has been the norm and little regard has been granted to the side effects of development initiatives. Gradual escalation of awareness and realisation of the range as well as the magnitude of environmental effects of development initiatives led to worldwide discussions on the way forward. Consequently, the concept sustainable development was conceived. However, this concept is perceived to be oxymoron by environmentalists, in other terms it is viewed as a combination of two contradicting terminologies. In view of the above, this essay endeavours to explain with relevant specific examples the reason why environmentalists consider the concept sustainable development as an oxymoron. In order to establish a good argument, two literature definitions of sustainable development shall be given. This will be followed by an explanation why sustainable development is considered to be oxymoron and this shall be supported by examples. And only after then shall a conclusion be stressed.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources (2007: V) sustainable development is defined as, “development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present generation without causing deterioration and without compromising the ability to meet the needs of future generations”. On the other hand Todaro and Smith (2003) asserted that sustainable development entails both intra-generational and inter-generational equity. These concepts project a requirement of the present generation to meet their needs and aspirations without destroying the ability of the future generations to come and meet their needs and aspirations. As earlier alluded to, the concept sustainable development is a mixture of two words with distinct opposing interpretations. According to Arend and Eureta (2002) sustainability entails the maintenance of the extraordinary diversity of plants, animals and insects that exist on earth. The other term development is known as a multidimensional phenomenon which has several aspects namely; economic, social, political, cultural and environmental. It is imperative to acknowledge the fact that true development involves a record of progress in all the dimensions of the development process. Furthermore, it is also necessary to be cognisant of the point that the environment and global systems which includes development are a series of dynamic and interconnected processes changing and interacting overtime, (Todaro and smith, 2003). From the definitions provided above, it is apparent that the two expressions sustainability and development contradict each other. This is due to the point that sustainability emphasizes on maintaining diversity and productivity of natural resources overtime. On the contrary, natural resources fuel the process of development; therefore, development cannot be a reality without consuming natural resources. The global community is hungry for development as a result people are constantly improving their livelihoods and welfare so as to attain higher standards of living through many innovations such as technology which in turn negatively impact on the environment. The question which maybe asked here is “what forms the basis of livelihoods?” (ECZ, 2008). According to ECZ (2000), the environment is the cornerstone of our livelihoods because biological resources are the primary sources of economic development thus development is all about consuming natural resources. Besides development, population dynamics also exert pressure on natural resources. With a clear reflection that development is all about the utilisation of natural resources, how then can sustainability be transformed into actuality? This is the question asked by many environmental practioners. It is evident...
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