This is a well used phrase and has been a growing part of UK government policy now for 16 years and includes many initiatives. But what does the statement mean? More importantly, what does it mean to our way of life?
The UK government has a very clear definition and describes it as:
Development that meets the needs of the present and does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The phrase attempts to encompass an over all attitude, that it is believed to be required, in order for people to live in harmony globally. Its origins lie in the United Nations, World Commission on Environment & Development and it has become a concept at the heart of the western political model.
To accept sustainable development as a concept relies on the acceptance that certain major factors come together to promote a standard of living that will allow human beings to enjoy life indefinitely. The three factors that interact positively or negatively to affect all our lives are the Social, Environmental and Economic spheres of influence.
When social and environmental conditions are in balance we have bearable living conditions. When social and economic conditions are in balance, we have equitable living conditions. When environmental and economic conditions are in balance, we have viable living conditions. The balancing of all three factors produces sustainable living conditions, the aim sustainable development.
Sustainable development therefore is not limited any particular area in society or field of expertise, rather it can be applied to any situation that affects the social, environmental or economic fabric of society. In the UK the government has identified four key areas:
- Sustainable Consumption & Production - Raising quality & efficiency.
- Climate Change & Energy - Reducing our output of damaging pollutants.
- Natural Resources - Understanding the limits of life sustaining resources.
- Sustainable Communities - Improving conditions where we live and work.
Most people are in agreement that applying the principles of SD is at the very least common sense. Anything we can do to lower our negative impact on the environment, to improve our attitudes towards social responsibility and raise the quality of our local environments can only be a good thing generally.
Allotment gardening has big role to play in sustainable community development and though it may have fallen from favour for a decade or three, it always has. As an island race our rulers long since valued the strength our nation derives from basic self reliance. But the benefits of allotment gardening reach way beyond the food produced if you apply SD reasoning to judge its worth today. Just look at Incredible Edible. Since its beginnings it has gone from strength to strength with towns across the country following the example set in Todmorden. The combination of a few passionate individuals and committed local government support has proven the benefits of sustainable community initiatives in working towards Transition Town status.
As we face up to the new concepts SD presents it will be hard for many born in the Century of Self, as we embrace responsible living standards and counter the habits of rabid consumerism. Because something that doesn't benefit much under SD is the poor mans replacement for self esteem - defining himself by what he can buy!
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