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Sustainable Development

Natural Resources, Economics, Sustainable Development And Sustained Growth, Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is the management of renewable resources for the good of the entire human and natural community. Built into this concept is an awareness of the animal and plant life of the surrounding environment, as well as inorganic components such as water and the atmosphere. The goal of sustainable development is to provide resources for the use of present populations without compromising the availability of those resources for future generations, and without causing environmental damage that challenges the survival of other species and natural ecosystems.

The notion of sustainable development recognizes that individual humans and their larger economic systems can only be sustained through the exploitation of natural resources. By definition, the stocks of non-renewable resources, such as metals, coal, and petroleum, can only be diminished by use. Consequently, sustainable economies cannot be based on the use of non-renewable resources. Ultimately, sustainable economies must be supported by the use of renewable resources such as biological productivity, and solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy sources.

However, even renewable resources may be subjected to overexploitation and other types of environmental degradation. Central to the notion of sustainable development is the requirement that renewable resources are utilized in ways that do not diminish their capacity for renewal, so that they will always be present to sustain future generations of humans.

To be truly sustainable, systems of resource use must not significantly degrade any aspects of environmental quality, including those not assigned value in the marketplace. Biodiversity is one example of a so-called non-valuated resource, as are many ecological services such as the cleansing of air, water, and land of pollutants by ecosystems, the provision of oxygen by vegetation, and the maintenance of agricultural soil capability. These are all important values, but their importance is rarely measured in terms of dollars.

A system of sustainable development must be capable of yielding a flow of resources for use by humans, but that flow must be maintainable over the long term. In addition, an ecologically sustainable economy must be capable of supporting viable populations of native species, viable areas of natural ecosystems, and acceptable levels of other environmental qualities that are not conventionally valued as resources for direct use by humans.


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