Sustainable Human Development

According World on Environment and Development (1987), sustainable development is “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Beckerman (1994) asserted that sustainability is interdisciplinary in nature and can be explored from three broad aspects namely: economic, social and environment sustainability.

This paper will extensively focus on the concept of environmental sustainability that focuses on maintenance of biodiversity, ecological system, and resource depletion. For an environmental system to be sustainable, it must maintain a stable base of resources and prevent over-exploitation of non-renewable sources of energy such as coal and oil.

Greener sources of energy such as biomass, solar panels, geothermal and wind have no detrimental effects on environment and consequently adapts significantly to the local environmental conditions. There is ample justification that conservation of ecological systems and natural resources is vital in promoting sustainable development.

Durning (1992) argued that sustainability requires a controlled level of human consumption as well as, firm social institutions. Sustainable development requires a stable level of population and economic production. Increased economic activities exert pressures on local and global environment, which interferes with atmospheric stability leading to biodiversity loss and water scarcity.

Sustainability is nevertheless broader than human consumption limitations. From an ecological perspective, sustainability involves maintenance of biological and genetic systems that include forest and pest ecosystems. The integrity of these systems must be preserved to ensure the survival of diverse species present.

This ecologist’s perspective contradicts the widely accepted definition of World Commission on Environment and Development. Sustainability is also heavily linked to the levels of poverty and social disparities. This correlation is derived from the fact that the level of environmental degradation experienced in rural areas is exceptional higher than in urban areas (Anand & Amartya, 1996).

Nutrient cycling is among the main processes that affect the basic functioning of the ecosystem. The cycling and recycling of nutrients is crucial for survival of living organisms. Naturally, nutrient elements and their compounds constantly move from nonliving environment to the living organisms and back.

This circulation of minerals from their reservoirs (air, water, and soil) to the living components and back to the reservoirs is called nutrient cycling. The carbon cycle involves carbon as the main element. Carbon is the principal building block of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that are necessary for life. The cycle is based on co2, which forms 0.03 percent of the atmosphere and ground water.

Through photosynthesis, green plants absorb co2 and convert it to complex carbohydrates, which are latter broken down, releasing a lot of energy in a process known as respiration. During respiration, carbon is converted to carbon dioxide and released to the atmosphere or water for re-use by producers.

Phosphorous cycle is slow. It is such slow cycling of nutrients that usually become the limiting factors for plant growth. This is the single reason why phosphorous is supplied to crop species through synthetic means such as fertilizers. The main element in the phosphorous cycle is phosphate, which is found in rocks and ground water. Plants and animals absorb this trace mineral, and when they die, phosphorous returns to the environment.

Nitrogen is the key element in the nitrogen cycle. The atmospheric nitrogen is not absorbable, and, therefore, organisms depend on the nitrogen cycle. The cycle takes place in three processes namely: nitrogen fixation, nitrification, and plant metabolism.

Nitrogen fixation involves UV radiation, which converts nitrogen into ammonia. Ammonia consequently converted to nitrites and nitrates through a process known as nitrification. Plants through metabolism absorb the usable nitrates and eventually, the animals consume the plants thus transferring the minerals.

Deforestation in the Amazon is a key concern for environmentalists. According to Armenteras et al. (2006), the major factors behind the destruction have been the “hamburger connection” and “McNuggets connection.” The hamburger connection relates to consumption of hamburgers in North America whereas McNugget’s connection is linked to soy production for raising chicken.

The Amazon rain forest is an ecological and biological region, which boosts of many different indigenous species of animals and plants. Deforestation is also due to lack of government enforcement, demand from European consumers and international commodity prices. However, the main factors are road construction, cattle ranching, agriculture, and fires with wood extraction being a unique aspect in these factors.


Anand, S., & Amartya K. S. (1996). Sustainable human development: Concepts and riorities. Human Development Report Office. New York: UNDP.

Armenteras, D., Rudas G., Rodriguez N., Sua S., & Romero M. (2006). Patterns and causes of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon. In Ecological Indicators, 6, 353-368.

Beckerman, W. (1994). Sustainable development: Is it a useful concept? Environmental Values, 3, 191-209.

Durning, Alan (1992). How much is enough? The consumer society and the future of Earth. World watch Environmental Alert Series, ed. Linda Starke. New York: W.W. Norton.

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