The Environment vs. People; Sustainable Development

Introduction
Have you ever imagined what would happen if nature just decided to quit? If all natural proccesses reached their limit and became aggitated with the way we're treating the environment and stopped. If we looked at the earth as an industry, the working conditions we provide are horrid. So, could you blame Earth for striking? Definitely not, you'd question the workers mentality if they choose to continue working under the given circumstances.

For example, Bees. Everyone considers them to be a pretty big pest, don't we? They sting, the buzz, and fly around, it's annoying. So would you really miss them if they went on strike? I think you would. Bees and other insects pollinate plants vital to not only human survival, but other animals. Without that pollonation, certain plants wouldn't be able to grow, which means the animals that eat those plants wouldn't have food. Then, the animals preying on them wouldn't have food, ect. Then, those preying animals wouldn't be able to prey on other animals which could cause their population to increase, which could directly affect humans. All of that could happen if we lost something as tiny as a bee. It would be extremely exspensive to pollinate these plants by human means, according to something I watched on the science channel it would cost billions of dollars on a world-wide scale.

Even more costly, what if nature was able to charge us for all the resources we use? Air, running the water cycle, lumber, ect. We charge each other for those things, but initially we don't have to pay for the actual resource. If we had to, the fee would be astronomical I'm sure. I don't even think we could begin to calculate it. It's so extremely important, yet we destroy it. We have such a paradox relationship with nature, its upsetting. Not only is it upsetting, but it's going to begin to hurt humans if we continue to abuse nature in the ways that we do now.

People have negative attitudes and think that we have to put either the environment above people or people above the environment. Such narrowminded thinking is never going to come up with a reasonable solution. People have to be allowed to benifit from industry, but we also have to respect the environment. Without either, survival isnt possible as we know it. At the rate we're going, nature won't have to go on strike, we'll just destroy it. So, perhaps it's time for a new theory that doesn't involve superiority or one above the other. Something like Sustainable Development.

The Idea
Sustainable Development is the concept of balancing out human needs with environmental protection. The key word there is balance, treating them as equals. It's obvious that humans have to be allowed to grow and develop, but its also obvious that the rate and way in which we do so now is destructive. Unlike the green development plan, Sustainable development is more practical.

We have to remember that many of the countries that need the most environmental help are not as financially well off as the countries who devlop these environmental safety net plans. We can't expect poor factories in poverty stricken countries to use new, cutting edge, exspensive technology that's environmentally friendly when they can barely afford to function as it is. Not all western world factories even use this technology we have and we can afford it! So instead, we need to find a balance. We need to figure out how much we can take from the Earth, without causing resource loss. How much we can take, so that the resources are still able to be replinished, sustained. We have four main areas that need to be sustained; the natural environment, industry, agriculture, and the social needs of humanity.

Environmental Problems.
Its scary to think about how little is left of our natural, unaltered, environment. Only 39% of the world is wilderness. A little over 1/3 of that is nothing but ice. This leaves all of the rainforests, desertes, grasslands, ect. making up only 1/4 of the world, and it shrinks daily. The Amazon rainforest alone is losing an area the size of Switzerland each year. A large percentage of our freshwater is located in the Amazon rainforest, and many people, animals, and plants in that region depend on it. At the rate we're destroying the rainforest, the water cycle of that region is going to be severly damaged. Without plants to hold the soil in place, the heavy rains are going to destroy the land and make it infertile and useless to not only the animals that lived there, but people as well.

The oceans are another place people and animals seem to clash in an intense way. The ocean has become an easy sollution to waste magangement...when you aren't the one living in the water. All of what we dump into the oceans is then in turn taken into the animals that are forced to live there, mainly through food. This does have a way of coming back and hurting humanity, however it typically doesn't affect the person disposing of the waste so it's permitted. In many Asian countries that consume large amounts of ocean dwelling fish, this pollution is contaminating their food supply. We can't continue like this if we want a functional future.

Obviously, this is just a small list of all the problems our environment faces. However I believe I could write a very lengthy book if I were to list all of them.

Industrial Problems.
Industry has become vital to the way that society functions. Not only do we need the products produced by industries, but humanity needs the jobs that it offers. The economy wouldn't be able to function without corporations or industries. The corporate world is constantly challenged and labled as corrupt. Any person who is reading this right now and has that classic "f*ck the corporate world" attitude is a total hypocrit, seeing as how you're on a computer. As corrupt and vicious as it may be, you would be way to idealistic to assume that it isn't needed.

Agricultural Problems
Even more so than industry, we truely could not survive without the products produced by aggricultural industries. Food is a necessity, that isn't anything that can be changed. It is estimated by environmentalists that the Earth could efficiently and safely sustain 3 billion people. Our population is at 6 billion, so you can see why so much environmental damage is occuring due to the land loss to accomodate the farms needed to sustain this many people. Even with all of the crops we produce, people still starve on a daily basis.

The problem isn't that we need more farmland, it's that we need to redistribute what we have. 80% of all the crops grown in the United States are used to feed livestock. Alot of people view those who practice vegetarianism as radicalist PETA freaks, when really they're quite environmentally friendly. Imagine if we didn't have to feed livestock, our markets would over produce in great amounts. Initially, this would cause the economy to be pretty unstable. However, once trade was worked out poorer countries would be able to recieve food at cheaper prices resulting in a more stable environment. Obviously, I would be a silly, overidealistic person if I thought everyone would become a vegetarian, that won't happen. Technically, it wouldn't have to, we'd only need to do away with domestication of animals (which would free up even more land), but that won't happen either. If we could consume less it would help however, alot.

In Costa Rica, the government actually pays farmers to protect and replinish the rainforest. They recieve money for allowing certain fields to regrow and become parts of the rainforest again. So far, this has had a positive affect on the environment and is resulting in the land area of Costa Rica's rainforests to increase. But you have to wonder how long they can afford to pay farmers. Alot of people assume things like "Well they shouldn't have to pay them to not destroy the environment! How selfish!" Well no, you're not considering all factors. For alot of the people living there it comes down to allowing a tree to stand or feeding their kids. Of course, given the opportunity to help the environment they would..but if they had to put their family in danger to do so they won't. Can you blame them?

Social Needs of Humanity
Personally, I consider cultural diversity just as important to humanity as I do biodiversity to ecosystems. More and more countries are adapting to the "modern" world and by doing so they end up losing their cultures in the process and they shouldn't have to. They also shouldn't be told that they aren't allowed to devlop. It's cruel to think that we can expect people to live in poverty. True, if we want to keep doing things as we are now, it would be better for the environment if they did. However, we have the ability to change and there are other options that allow people to prosper and the environment to function.

Humans are by nature quite curious. This is what makes tourism so popular. People become curious about those other cultures and want to go see them. Tourism has become a major industry in many underdeveloped countries due to this cultural diversity. Tourism is helping countries advance socially and ecconomically, without losing historical values.

Tourism can really help poverty stricken areas. Though they may be poor in industrial resources, they're plentiful in natural beauty. That attracts people who in turn spend money. At a national park in Kenya, tourists come from all over the world to view the majestic animals that live there. Outside of the parks, local communities have built and constructed lodges. Not large scale cities destroying massive amounts of land, but something efficient to accomodate tourists. Not only does it accomodate tourists, but it generates revenue. Not only that, but nature can benifit as well. For example, people tour the national parks to see lions. So, the people living in the surrounding areas now have a healthy respect for lions because they are needed to profit. Those profits allow It's a balanced reationship. See how well sustainable development can work when actually tried?

Conclusion
Alot of politicians people feel that Sustainable Development isn't possible. That in reality, it is just a nice way to say no development. Typically, those people are also the ones who think the polar ice caps are melting just because it's fun. That isn't the case. As long as we keep thinking with the People vs. The Environment attitude no one can win, and we'll have everything to lose.

All of the statistics in this blog came from a documentary called Planet Earth; The Future. Watch it!
Posted on August 19th, 2007 at 08:56am

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