What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development is the concept that defines the need for transition and change that our planet and its inhabitants need in order to live in a more equitable, healthy and environmentally friendly world.

A model for the organization of society

Sustainable development comes from the combination of two words, which together define a model for the organization of society. By development we mean the improvement of the performance (economic, social, etc...) of a society. The term sustainable characterizes something that is durable, stable and resistant. The combination of the two words gives the definition of sustainable development: the improvement of a society's performance to make it stable over time. Sustainable development is a way of organizing society to meet the needs of the present as efficiently as possible without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Today, this transition towards a more sustainable model is necessary to live in a more equitable world and preserve our planet and its natural resources. The model of a sustainable society is based on fundamental pillars and principles.

The three pillars of sustainable development

Sustainable development implies an organization mode based on 3 essential pillars:
  • The environmental quality of human activities to limit environmental impacts, preserve ecosystems and natural resources in the long term.
  • Social equity to guarantee all members of society access to basic resources and services (education, health, food, housing...) to meet the needs of humanity, reduce inequalities and maintain social cohesion.
  • Economic efficiency by reducing extreme poverty and ensuring employment of the greatest number of people in a dignified economic activity. The sustainable economy is a sound management of human activities without harm to humans or the environment.
These 3 pillars make up the challenges of sustainable development. In order to create a more sustainable society, these pillars are accompanied by fundamental principles.

The fundamental principles of sustainable development

Solidarity between countries, between peoples, between generations, and between members of a society. For example: saving raw materials so that the greatest number can benefit from them. Precaution in decisions so as not to cause disasters when we know that there are risks to health or the environment. For example: limiting CO2 emissions to curb climate change. Participation of everyone, regardless of profession or social status, to ensure the success of sustainable projects. For example: setting up children and youth councils. Responsibility of everyone, citizen, industrialist or farmer. So that he who damages, degrades and pollutes repairs. For example: make industries that pollute a lot pay a tax. These principles are sometimes incompatible with the consumer society in which we live. This is why many people (elected officials, associations, companies, individuals, young people...) are calling for our economic system to be rethought to move towards a more sustainable society in order to preserve the planet and its resources. Sustainable development is not only an urgent need, which is not a constraint but a real opportunity to redesign our society.

Why is sustainable development essential today?

In 1800, there were 900 million human beings on earth. In 2020, our planet is home to 7.8 billion people. This strong population growth is accompanied by an increase in demand for goods and services and production methods that lead to environmental and social disorders. In the 1970s, many experts and scientists sounded the alarm about the impact of human activity on the planet. Since the industrial revolution, our society has undergone unprecedented development, but without really measuring the consequences of the evolution of its way of life. In addition to this:
  • the acceleration of trade with the rest of the world (globalization);
  • the increase in inequalities between rich and poor countries;
  • the population growth forecasts which target 10 billion people on the planet by 2100.
Today 80% of natural resources are consumed by 20% of the world's population. This creates areas of great wealth and poverty. In some areas of the world, the inhabitants do not have access to drinking water, healthcare, education and dignified paid employment. But how can we ensure access to food and drinking water, health and education for all tomorrow? How can we ensure the protection of biodiversity and fight against climate change? This is why it is urgent to find a new model: sustainable development. Human societies will have to enter into a transition and rethink all their activities. Many actors are already engaged in this transition towards a way of operating that is more respectful of the environment and of human beings.

The actors of sustainable development

Everyone is concerned by this transition to a new, more sustainable model of society. The different actors who are already acting, at their own level, by carrying out sustainable development actions are :
  • Local and international citizens: children, young people, parents, etc...
  • The eco-delegates in middle and high school
  • Educational institutions: schools, colleges, high schools, universities, campuses
  • Associations and clubs
  • Businesses
  • Farmers
  • Local authorities: cities, departments, regions...
  • The State
  • The European Union
  • And many others...
We are all concerned by sustainable development and are moving forward together towards a new model of society that is more respectful of the environment.
Making the Right Choices in Sustainable Energy Management
Overview of the challenges of the 3 pillars of sustainable development

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