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What Is Environmental Sustainability and Why Is It Important?

According to the Financial Times lexicon, environmental sustainability refers to “a state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future.” Due to a large body of evidence pointing to real changes in the Earth’s resources, environmental sustainability looks at ways to reduce the harvesting of non-renewable resources, as well as the effects the activities associated with them have on the Earth’s biosphere. In other words, environmental sustainability tries to avoid the depletion of non-renewable resources.

Scientists warn of the effects the exploitation of these finite resources has on the environment. Studies show that the CO2 emissions are incredibly high and contribute greatly to climate change. In addition, there is the imminent danger that the global climate will increase with two degrees if we do not take immediate action. Taking all this scientific evidence into consideration, environmental sustainability is a step towards reducing our global impact on the planet.

Related: Renewable Resources: Benefits, Drawbacks and More

Environmental Sustainability as Part of the Three Pillars

Treatment station for a sustainable development.

Water recycling on sewage treatment station.

Environmental sustainability is not a concept on its own. It has to integrate with two more to form a self-sufficient society. Named the Three Pillars of Sustainability, the mechanism incorporates environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, and social sustainability. As a rule, all the pillars have to function and integrate with each other for the system to solve the sustainability problem. Social sustainability has to be equitable and economic sustainability viable. These two concepts work within the environment and have a negative impact if they do not function properly.

However, the criticism to environmental sustainability is that it too clashes with the social and economic aspect. The goals of a highly industrialized society will always come to a disagreement with those of the environmental pillar.

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Clashing Needs

While sustainable development might not seem like an opposing force to environmental sustainability, it does clash with the needs of the other. Sustainable development implies that there is still going to be an impact on the land, albeit reduced. The new construction projects seek to create self-sufficient models such as installing wind turbines or solar panels. However, critics say that the current environmental conscious models are not enough to combat the problem in today’s world. Moreover, these models cannot counter balance the harm done in another part of the planet.

Sustainable development does have the goal to reduce the depletion of natural resources and be environmentally friendly. However sustainable development will always argue for construction while environmental sustainability implies preservation.

Endangered areas represent a sensitive subject that these two concepts disagree on. Sustainable development will want to incorporate the area and counter balance the damages. It will argue that there will be economic benefits that will lead to more funding to create preservation areas elsewhere.

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Working Together

Environmental sustainability advocates will argue that preservation should be a priority above all. Therefore, it will not factor in money and the economy. However, environmental sustainability advocates can work in terms of economic development by contributing to the design plans. They can show the engineers parts that can be improved in order to preserve as much of the endangered areas as possible. Conversely, by allocating more funds to preservation projects, environmental sustainability could be increased both in protected land and through educating the public on environmental issues.

Overall, both sides should come together and balance their levels of implication. This means that new legislation should be established to regulate the impact on nature and to incentivize the public to adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle. At the same time, conservation projects could implicate local communities in processes that will benefit the local economy.

Some sacrifices still have to be made from a societal point of view. As technology is accelerating, we tend to disregard the environment until it falls to the bottom of the list. However, there is no reason not to integrate technology into an environmentally friendly frame.

Environmental Protection – How We Can Make a Change

Map of the world made of leaves

A greener world economy

Since the Industrial Revolution, society has progressed immensely. However, the damages on the environment are measurable and scientists are concerned about the future of the planet. On the positive side, the development of biofuels and nuclear energy helped to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. The automotive industry, in particular, is trying to adopt a new scheme to build bio means of transportation such as the Hybrid. Elon Musk’s Tesla cars prompted Volvo to plan to adopt the same technology in 2019.

However, our power needs are still high. At the same time, we are now more aware of our impact on nature so developing environmentally conscious technology that meets these needs should also be a priority.

In addition, civic programs such as the Fair Trade program or the Rainforest Alliance look at ways to limit the damages of agriculture by promoting good practices that also benefit local farmers.

Meanwhile, on an individual level, every environmentally conscious step helps. Recycling, switching from public transport to bicycles or walking, switching off devices when they are not in use, each contributes to the expansion of green culture that will benefit the future of humanity.

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Final Words

It is worth noticing that we have the means to adopt a more sustainable way of life. Moreover, the compromises we would have to make are not severely disruptive. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, has a comprehensive list of ways to reduce food waste, manage sustainable materials, the proper ways to recycle and set up an organic garden and advice on how to choose a green vehicle. It will take some time but it is not impossible. If we, as a society, would reach a balance between technology and nature, the future of our Planet would be a little brighter.

Image source: DepositPhotos – 1 and 2 and 3

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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