What is sustainable development?

We explain what is sustainable development, its objectives and characteristics. In addition, examples and sustainable development in Mexico.

  1. What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development (also called enduring development or sustainable development) is a model of development of society that reconciles the economic and industrial needs of humanity, with the minimum balance of ecological or environmental forces.

Its objective is that economic development does not threaten life on our planet or the continuity of the human species . As the name implies, it is a truly sustainable socio-economic design over time.

The definition of sustainable development appeared in the twentieth century, when the environmental consequences of the socio-economic model of the consumer society , as it was being built since the Industrial Revolution , became unquestionable.

However, the concept was formally used in the “Brundtland Report” formulated in 1987 by the United Nations World Commission for Environment and Development and named after the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. At that time, it was formulated in English as sustainable development .

In this report it was defined as follows: “Satisfy the needs of present generations without compromising the possibilities of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Since then, much has been debated about the urgency or the need to achieve a form of sustainable development, and more so as to what the paths to it would be.

  1. Characteristics of sustainable development

Sustainable development can be understood from three different and complementary perspectives: the economic, the social and the ecological . These three sets define the areas of interest in which changes and adjustments are necessary to achieve an optimal result.

This is often represented by an intersection scheme or Venn diagram, from which four possible intersections are obtained:

  • Addressing the social and economic only leads to equitable, but not ecological, development schemes.
  • Addressing the economic and ecological only leads to viable development schemes, but nothing social.
  • Addressing the ecological and social only leads to bearable, but economically unviable, development schemes.

Only by attending all three aspects at the same time can the goal of sustainable development be achieved, which at the same time:

  • Satisfy the social needs of the population , that is, what concerns their food, clothing, housing and work.
  • Have economic and technological processes that allow financial support over time .
  • Allow the environment to absorb the traces of its impact without catastrophic ecological changes in the process.
  1. Sustainable Development Goals

The objectives of sustainable development can be summarized in four guidelines, which are:

  • Guarantee democracy and the rule of law as the prevailing political system.
  • Reach a development model that does not affect the environment in a substantive and irreversible way.
  • Promote peace , equality and respect for human rights .
  • Defend and conserve the planet’s biodiversity .
  1. Application examples

sustainable development agriculture
Sustainable agriculture encourages crop rotation.

Sustainable development, in full, has not yet been achieved in any part of the world, although some regions, such as certain first world nations, have the elements and the will to approach it as closely as possible.

Some examples of application of sustainability criteria may be the following:

  • Sustainable agriculture . Since the production of food for the growing human population is based more than anything on agricultural work, it is necessary to do it in a more ecologically friendly way, using planned irrigation that does not waste water resources, without using fertilizers or pesticides that affect in the ecosystem in a negative way and encouraging crop rotation, so as not to deplete soil nutrients through monoculture.
  • Sustainable fashion . The fashion industry puts on its part using only natural fibers in the manufacture of its garments, from organic farming, thus avoiding synthetic textiles that biodegrade more difficult and pollute the planet much more.
  • Sustainable transport . Transport is one of the great dilemmas of the world of sustainable development, since the burning of fossil fuels , the main input of conventional cars, wreaks havoc in the Earth ‘s atmosphere . Therefore, quality public transport should be encouraged, as well as the possibility of electrifying vehicles or replacing them with even healthier options for life, such as cycling.
  • Sustainable energy . The great dilemma of the century is to find a way of obtaining energy that is sustainable, that is, that does not deteriorate our planet, and that at the same time is safe, reliable and efficient . For some time it was believed that atomic energy could be the solution, but the risk of accidents is a real problem. There are those who bet on atomic fusion, but our technology is still far from reaching it. So in the meantime, you should invest in renewable energy , such as wind , hydroelectric or solar .
  1. Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development

There is a discrepancy regarding the interpretation and use of these two terms, which come from ambiguity in the translation of the English word sustainable development .

The problem arises from the fact that both terms are not entirely synonymous: “sustainable development” is an efficient process, capable of lasting over a period of time ; while “sustainable development” implies an effective process, which addresses an immediate need in the here and now. Thus, all sustainable development must be sustainable, but not vice versa.

  1. Sustainable economic development

Although there is no concrete and concise agreement on how to achieve sustainable development in economic matters, it is known that it is most likely to move away from the economic paradigm that prevails today. That is, a certain economic creativity or a profound change is needed that addresses the economic challenges of sustainability, and that can be summarized as:

  • Obtaining sustainable, safe and continuous energy , since it is an essential element in the contemporary human way of life and production.
  • The design of a manufacturing model that contemplates recycling and the use of non-polluting materials.
  • The implementation of measures that promote an equitable distribution of resources , that is, that promote equity , but at the same time are profitable.
  1. Sustainable Development in Mexico

Like so many other countries, the Mexican nation did not pay much attention to the economic and social cost of population growth , much less to the ecological impact , except when it was already too late, as in the sadly famous case of Mexico City, one of the cities most contaminated on the planet.

Already in the 1970s, institutions were created to ensure the environmental well-being of the Mexican ecosystem. However, only in the 80s the concept of sustainable development began to be heard , with the creation of the Ministry of Urban Development and Ecology (SEDUE) and the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA).

Since then, official organizations have not ceased to be created to meet the search for a sustainable development model. In addition, between 2000 and 2013, around eight important laws on the subject were enacted and reformed .

However, the changes required to move in that direction are structural and represent a sustained effort from different segments of society . For that reason, in Mexico the environmental degradation and the depletion of resources has been continuous, as has been the progress of social marginalization and the weakening of formal employment.

Like other nations in Latin America, Mexico is moving towards sustainable development, dragging significant weaknesses and weaknesses.

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