What is environmental sustainability?

Environmental sustainability includes perspectives on well being and human needs, health, education, clean air and water, and the safety of natural beauty that can continue indefinitely. It is quite obvious that the long term potential of our well being will depend on the proper maintenance of the natural resources in the current time. And if it cannot be continues that they are not sustainable. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, sustainability is the capability to enhance the superiority of human life by living within the ecosystem of the Earth.

Desserts, forests and coral reefs act as a fine example of sustainable systems. Nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon are redistributed and regenerated in chemical cycles throughout the ecosystem of the world, adapting and sustaining life since their first-time arrival. According to the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, Environmental Sustainability is defined as the ability to produce the demand of the present without negotiating the future generations’ ability to meet their needs. 

Also Read: Examples of Environmental Sustainability

But in today’s world, the pattern of global consumption and production are annihilating nature at an unrelenting high rate. Due to the increased population, the utilization of natural resources like coal, gas, minerals, and petroleum has also enhanced. This has resulted in the death and decline in the numbers of many rare birds, mammals, and even insects. The balance of the ecosystem is completely damaged and has a negative impact on both human beings and other living organisms.

Famous environmentalists Paul Hawken have stated that environmental sustainability is the capacity to neutralize the currently disruptive relationship between humans and other resources. Now we are consuming the resources of the Earth at a much faster rate than they are replenished or regenerated. In other words, it is the rate of depletion of non-renewable resources, the creation of pollution, and the harvesting of renewable assets for an indefinite time.

Related: Environmental Management

Environmental Sustainability

Why is Environmental sustainability important?

Environmental sustainability is important for many reasons out of which the below mentioned three reasons are considered primary. And they are: 

  • Growth: Energy, air, and water are required for the proper growth of a human being. Without proper sustainability, growth will not be possible without the above-mentioned elements.
  • Environmental Quality: Healthy environmental quality like nontoxic natural resources and clean air is required for proper growth and development of our future generation. For this, we need to maintain environmental sustainability today to enjoy the benefits tomorrow.
  • Health:  Healthcare and sustainability are intricately connected since the environmental quality will affect the health of the public. Sustainability aims to utilize the resources in a stable way for future use.

We cannot ignore the fact that the environment is getting wrinkled day by day and the future will depend on the care that we will take today to preserve the natural resources to develop a better world for the living. It is the responsibility of each individual to help sustain the environment for the betterment of our future generations.

Also read: What is meant by Environmental Education?

Problems Related to Environmental Sustainability 

There are many issues which are related to environmental sustainability. Few of them are discussed below:

  1. Long Term Ecosystem Health: It is necessary to protect the health of the natural resources for long term productivity to meet all the future social and economic needs. This includes the protection of fishing stocks, farmland, and food suppliers.
  2. Renewable Resources: Expansion into the energy sources like wind and solar polar that does not reply on nonrenewable resources.
  3. Decisions for Intergenerational making: We have to consider the impact of our economic decisions that our future generations will have. Like the burning of coal is a good source of cheap fuel and energy, but the pollution it is causing to the environment is unforgivable. The next generation will have to face extra pollution due to the usage of coal.
  4. Ecological Structure and Diversity of Species Protection: Some medicines require elements from the specific species of plants. In this way, if we destroy all the plants today, it will limit technological innovation in the future. We really need to protect and preserve these rare species before its extinction.
  5. Prevention of Global Warming: Environmental sustainability applies policies to ensure that global warming is in check and the environment is not worsening further like any water shortages, prevention of extreme weather conditions, and excessive temperature.
  6. Focusing on Social Welfare: Targeting environmental sustainability and social welfare above crude progress measures such as GDP will retain the happiness of our upcoming generations.
  7. Treating Natural Resources like Us: Natural Resources should be treated as if they have values or rights just like human beings. Instead of thinking only about the monetary value, we should also think about other consequences as well. For example, now we are cutting down thousands of trees, thus destroying many rain forests. Soon, there will be a time when rainfall will be in scarce quantity due to this unthinkable butchering of the trees.

But What Should We Actually Do Then?

The only way to maintain proper environmental sustainability is to change the way human beings live and conduct of business on Earth. We can imply businesses as a catalyzing force to recognize that financial success is tied to social and ecological success as well. The following are some of the ways through which we can maintain a sustainable life which will have a calming effect on the Earth’s ecosystem and they are:

  • By working and staying in the eco-friendly offices and houses, we can build a more sustainable form of the cities.
  • By developing green technologies and using renewable energy
  • Through the reappraisal of the economic sectors like green building, sustainable agriculture and architecture, and permaculture.
  • By making changes in our lifestyle like switching off the lights when required, stopping the unnecessary flow of water, using eco-friendly materials in place of plastics and many more.
  • By purchasing furniture, food and clothing that is made from sustainable materials
  • By joining hands in the projects like campaigns to clean beaches and oceans
  • By educating children, women and men about the way of sustainable living
  • Through purchasing recycling materials and products. 
  • By planting more trees in your garden. This will not only help in maintaining environmental sustainability but also assists in reducing global warming.
  • Minimizes the amount of waste and participating in effective waste management

Policies for Environmental Sustainability:

There are many policies that have been implied by the Government of different countries to accelerate environmental sustainability. Let us have a quick look at a few of them below: 

  • Implementation of Carbon Tax which is placed for the consumption or production of carbon like smoldering of fossil fuels. This tax aims to make users give social costs before enjoying a private profit.
  • Government Regulations like the ban on diesel cars in some cities due to harmful emissions
  • Shifting the consumer or organizations behavior via behavioral economics and persuasion like banning the usage of plastic
  • Encouragement of more practices for environmental sustainability by using renewable energy sources like wind and solar instead of nonrenewable energy which is responsible for pollution creation.
  • All the environmental consequences should be included in the decision making of cost-benefit analysis

Also Read: Various Types of Pollution

What is Economics and Environmental Sustainability?

Traditionally Economics has always focused on short term goals. Economists like David Ricardo and Adam Smith has emphasized the maximum utilization between the utility of a decision and the costs. This theory believes that the environment should be consumed for the benefit of mankind. But with an increased rate of industrialization, there is an awareness that shows consumption and production could cause the external cost to society.

In 1920, Arthur Pigou has attempted to expand economics beyond benefits and personal costs in his book “The Economics of Welfare”. Here he has stated that building a factory in a city causes external costs to the residents of that place via amenity loss and pollution. But if an organization includes an external cost in its framework, it will maintain environmental sustainability, not for today but also for future generations as well.

Environmental Sustainability and Opportunity Costs

The simple PPF (Production Possibility Frontier) is a relation between the nonrenewable resources in the environment and the consumer goods. With the increase in the nonrenewable consumer goods consumption, the opportunity cost of these resources reduces and in turn decreases the long term environmental sustainability.

The Role of Economic Sustainability in the Economic Growth:

There is a big debate still going on among the experts about the role that environmental sustainability plays in economic growth. High output and GDP lead to a high rate of consumption of resources, thus producing more pollution and high demand for natural resources. However, some types of economic growth are compatible with environmental sustainability.

Through proper technological development, power could be generated from natural resources. Thus it is not compulsory to stop economic growth. It can be changed in accordance with the sustainability of the environment. One such example is the utilization of solar power that can be a source of both cheaper forms of energy and can enhance improved environmental sustainability and economic growth simultaneously.

How can the Common People be of any Help in sustaining the Environment?

Unregulated markets lead to failure and a decline in the sustainability of the environment. The human beings will face many tragedies that will result due to less environmental, overfishing and overgrazing. Human beings use land and water to maximize their harvest. But due to over-harvesting and maximize yield of the natural resources, the latter has reached a saturated point where the stocks of the fish are not sustainable anymore. The numbers of fish have down to many levels lower and may even become extinct in the coming years.

But if every fisherman restricts their daily catch, then there will be proper environmental sustainability and overfishing will also be reduced. Therefore a common initiative must be taken by every individual to do their part.

Elinor Olson, a famous economist, has suggested that if local people take charge of the shared resources in their area by forming some agreement, then it will spread the sustainability more rapidly. The European Union has already implemented a Common Fisheries Policy to overcome the problem of overfishing in the North Sea areas.

What are the Different Types of Resources?

There are three different types of resources in the environment and they are:

  1. Renewable Resources: Renewable Resources does not diminish when being used. For example, the use of the wind generator does not have any impact on wind energy and does not decrease the wind speed. Similarly, this also goes for solar power which does not reduce the sun’s energy.
  2. Non-Renewable Resources: This type of resource cannot be used again once utilized. Like coal, in this case, is a non-renewable resource. Once the coal is ignited, it cannot be restored and used again. The quantity of oil, coal, and gas are limited on Earth.
  3. Semi Renewable Resources: Some resources can be renewed if used in correct proportions. This is known as semi renewable resources. Farmland is a semi renewable resource. If rotation of the crop is practiced, then there will be no deterioration in the soil fertility of the farmland. But if the farmland is cultured with an excessive amount of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, then the quality of the soil will erode.

Some Facts about Environmental Sustainability

In this segment, we are going to state some facts about environmental sustainability. They are:

  • Survey on sustainability reporting covers different aspects of the ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) of the organization, including the benefit and cost of the reporting and connection to the financial performance
  • Strong environmental sustainability results in firm financial performance, that focuses on the initiatives based on the outcomes. This includes efforts for the reduction of carbon resulting in high-value creation.
  • Individuals have started to realize that environmental strategic sustainability like programs for the prevention of pollution and recycling will deliver both business and social benefits to them all.
  • The United Kingdom will ban the selling of all types of gas and diesel cars by the end of 2040. To reduce air pollution in the environment, the UK has taken this decision on the 26th of July, 2017. This will decrease the level of nitrogen dioxide below the EU limits within a very short time to change the climate.

Sustainable Development

The practice of construction projects and land development to reduce the impact on the environment through the creation of energy-efficient models is known as sustainable development. This may include technologies like the installation of wind generators or solar panels on site, techniques for geothermal heating and signing the trade and cap agreements. At present, most of the organizations are not participating in sustainable development to conserve the environment. There are three goals of sustainable development. They are:

  • To reduce the exhaustion of the natural resources
  • To employ environmentally friendly schemes
  • To engage development without any more damage to the environment

But there are several arguments among the two groups of people supporting environmental sustainability and developmental sustainability. For example, arguments will arise with the development of a building on the wetland. Environmentalists would argue that wetland is more important. The other group will show that the incorporation of the wetland and contribution of a different wetland would balance out the resulting difference.

Environmental factors can persuade the designs of a building to provide the best of both worlds. More research is also needed to incorporate environmentally sustainable goals in the construction and engineering world.