Sustainable Development within Environmental Limits

Sustainable Development within Environmental Limits
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  • 0:06 The Natural Environment
  • 0:50 Sustainable Development
  • 2:32 Environmental Limits
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Sustainable development is a way of meeting the needs of both present and future generations. Learn how sustainable development must work within the environmental limits so future generations can benefit from the rich resources of the environment.

The Natural Environment

The natural environment is very giving. Every day, humans take advantage of resources from nature to meet their daily needs, including fresh air, food and clean water. When humans take only what they need, nature replenishes these resources and life is sustainable.

However, if the natural environment is pushed beyond its limits because humans use resources too quickly, introduce pollutants into the environment or destroy nature in a pursuit of more economic and social prosperity, then nature has a hard time keeping pace. In this lesson, we will take a look at a concept called 'sustainable development' and how it can only occur within the limits of the environment.

Sustainable Development

The World Commission on Environment and Development came out with a report in 1987 called 'Our Common Future.' This report is often referred to as the 'Brundtland Report' and is credited with coining the term 'sustainable development,' which is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This sounds like a very responsible concept. Most people want to preserve all that is good in the natural environment, so their children and grandchildren can benefit from its rich resources. This also sounds like a very simple concept. If each human being only uses what he or she needs for survival, then the natural environment can keep giving back, and essentially humans and the environment can live in harmony for many generations to come.

However, the concept gets muddied when we consider the fact that life is not only about survival. There are economic and social needs that must be met and these needs impact the environment's ability to sustain itself. For example, if we look at the economy, we see that it is dependent on society for things such as labor and a market to exchange goods and services.

We also see that both the economy and society are dependent on the environment. This is because the environment provides them with raw materials, such as food, clean air and freshwater, as well as natural resources, such as timbers and fossil fuels. The economy, society and the environment must work together and they have done so for centuries.

Environmental Limits

However, due to increasing social and economic demands, there are ever increasing demands placed on the environment that are stretching the environmental limits of our planet. Environmental limits can be defined as the point beyond which the environment exceeds its ability to provide essential resources.

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