Studies & Degrees in Sustainable Development

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The concept of Sustainable Development started in 1980 as a call for environmentalism going hand-in-hand with the needed development. The basic idea is to find ways of satisfying today’s needs without depriving the future generations of a chance to meet their own needs, as well. This was given more emphasis in early 1980s as the United Nation’s (UN) World Commission on Environment and Development spearheaded programs for worldwide realization of this concept. They then defined two founding pillars of Sustainable Development, namely [1] the essential needs of the poor people of the present and [2] the limit or control mechanism into how environment should be utilized to meet these essential needs. Sustainable Development has then evolved to add to environmental sustainability the concepts of socio-political (i.e., promoting democracy, through basic human rights, to enable people to improve their lives) and economic sustainability (i.e., availability of employment opportunities that will provide the means on how people may meet their basic needs). It is, therefore, a balance among today’s needs, tomorrow’s needs, and taking care of the means that provides these needs – the environment and natural resources. Programs gearing towards Sustainable Development are deployed in developing and third world countries, where the tendency to exploit the environment to be able to alleviate the poverty level is higher.

But how do we apply Sustainable Development amidst today’s challenges, such as rapid population growth, food shortage, dwindling environment and ecosystems, diminishing sources of energy, industrialization, and urbanization? Sustainable Development, for instance, says that we should only cut trees that we can replace, provided the newly planted ones will grow in a rate that would make it ready for logging when the next need comes. The increasing demand for paper products, textiles, furniture, and other products that we make out of trees does not allow for this. What about the increasing demand for oil products? Oil is a non-renewable resource. How does the present generation manage all these? The challenges we have today are never easy to face; and our continuing problems in these aspects of life give high tendency of passing it to generations to come. This is why the global programs supporting the concept of Sustainable Development are towards finding the root causes and solving or at least mitigating the problems from there. For example, these programs take a look at the rate at which world population grows. Overpopulation makes a lot of things uncontrollable and unsustainable – environment-wise and socio-economic-wise. Worldwide campaign for population control or responsible parenting has been running for years. Sustainable Development programs also collaborate with industries and governments in search for alternative ways of doing business – the use of environment-friendly materials, producing reusable or recyclable products, implementation of governing laws to ensure control mechanisms are observed, etc.

Some critiques of Sustainable Development see the concept as idealistic, all by-the-book, quite a long shot, or even a fantasy. This is true if people of today will not shift their paradigm into being forward thinkers. We often hear about “one day millionaire.” They are those who spend all their resources in one day and could not care any less about what tomorrow brings. Maybe their mindset is “What if tomorrow does not come? Might as well enjoy what I can with whatever I have today!” Sustainable Development is a mindset on its own. Its programs are needed to put balance in adverse effects of different mindsets of billions of individuals that make up this world.

There are institutions offering courses about Sustainable Development. These courses are taken by people who have depth and sincere concern about environment, economics, and sociology. It requires its advocates to have founding knowledge of economic assessment and planning, risk management, industrial awareness (to see how one industry can still operate with minimum cost and less damage to the environment), and environmental science (marine, forestry, air, etc.). Students are immersed in communities and situations, where they can possibly observe problems with balance among environment, economics, and sociology; and recommend possible solution. Since Sustainable Development is a global concern, these courses offer career opportunities in global setting.

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