[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Tina Xiong, and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]
Among the various subjects embedded in the Brundtland Commission report concerning sustainable development, one of exceptional importance is the subject of what precisely should be developed. Those subjects with potential for development were discussed by both developed and developing countries and so can be stated as universally important. The development of essential human needs such as economic growth, equity of resources, equal opportunities, and education stands beside the sustainability of nature, resources, and communities. Social development, and more specifically social justice, can ensure development and sustainability of equity and equality for all persons. The goals which should correlate with these concepts include the elimination of poverty and an equal quality of life.
The challenge becomes one of not only properly implementing social justice but meeting social needs in general while still upholding values of environmental sustainability. For example, international parties should unite to aid in advancing undeveloped nations by using methods that don’t eradicate natural resources or compromise biodiversity. Issues that arise include those such as how to improve economic status without increasing the consumption of material goods that deplete natural resources or produce environmentally harmful waste. The answers are not in any way simplistic and the challenge associated with them might be the cause of reasons for disproportionate attentions. Methods for reducing carbon emissions seem to be easier to facilitate than methods for eliminating poverty; however we must remember that the underlying values connected to both goals are equally important and should both be subjects of improvement as environment and development cannot subsist without each other.
The oppositional views between developed and developing countries that hinder a more advanced progression for sustainability need to be addressed appropriately and ardently. A set of ‘time horizon’ goals modeled similarly after the UN could be shown as a movement of solidarity between the parties during the initial short-term goal. This could be demonstrated by all parties openly showing changes in their policy by adopting sustainability and moving forward into practicing it.
Compromises may be implemented for the interest of sustainability to at least cause an evolving start. Although making compromises may not be ideal, the ends and the means are shuffled within the context of sustainability. The next ‘two generational’ goal then could be the process of shedding these compromises and maturing further into real related concerns of sustainability development. This, in turn, would be followed by a set of interim goals that would take greater strides within two generations as the UN has formulated. Finally, the third goal coming to a focal point with the UN’s goal, the Great Transition of the Global Scenario Group would be more likely acquired.
Ideally, this planning of goals could broaden to entail other oppositional views, even if they may not agree with sustainability but are at least concerned for their own country’s future. All of these points aim at the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development: the “ability to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”