What is Sustainable Development?

What Does Sustainable development Mean

Sustainable development (also called lasting development or sustainable development) is a model of development of society that reconciles the economic and industrial needs of humanity , with the minimum balance of ecological or environmental forces.



Its objective is that economic development does not threaten life on our planet or the continuity of the human species . As its name implies, it is a really sustainable socio-economic design over time .

The definition of sustainable development appeared in the 20th century, when the environmental consequences of the socioeconomic model of the consumer society , as it has been built since the Industrial Revolution , became undeniable.

However, the concept was formally employed in the 1987 “Brundtland Report” formulated by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development and named for the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. Back then, it was formulated in English as sustainable development .

In this report it was defined as follows: "Meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the possibilities of future generations to meet their own needs."

Since then, much has been debated about the urgency or the need to achieve a form of sustainable development, and even more about what the paths would be towards it.

See also: Environmental issues

Characteristics of sustainable development

Sustainable development can be understood from three different and complementary perspectives: economic, social and ecological . These three sets define the areas of interest in which it is necessary to carry out changes and adjustments, to achieve an optimal result.

This is often represented by an intersection scheme or Venn diagram, from which four possible intersections are obtained:

  • Addressing the social and economic only leads to equitable development schemes, but nothing ecological.
  • Addressing the economic and ecological only, leads to viable development schemes, but nothing social.
  • Addressing the ecological and social only leads to development schemes that are bearable, but not economically viable.

Only by attending to the three aspects at the same time can the goal of sustainable development be achieved, which at the same time:

  • Satisfy the social needs of the population , that is, regarding their food , clothing, housing and work.
  • Have economic and technological processes that allow your financial support over time .
  • Allow the environment to absorb the traces of your impact without catastrophic ecological alterations in the process.

Sustainable development goals

The objectives of sustainable development can be summarized in four guidelines, which are:

  • Guarantee democracy and the rule of law as the prevailing political system.
  • Achieve a development model that does not affect the environment in a substantive and irreversible way.
  • Promote peace , equality and respect for human rights .
  • Defend and conserve the biodiversity of the planet.

Application examples

Sustainable agriculture encourages crop rotation.

Sustainable development, in full, has not yet been achieved in any part of the world, although some regions , such as certain nations of the first world, have the elements and the will to approach it as closely as possible.

Some examples of the application of sustainability criteria may be the following:

  • Sustainable agriculture. Since the production of food for the growing human population is sustained more than anything in agricultural work, it is necessary to do it in a more ecologically friendly way, using planned irrigation that does not waste water resources, without using fertilizers or pesticides that affect in the ecosystem in a negative way and promoting crop rotation, so as not to deplete soil nutrients through monoculture.
  • Sustainable fashion. The fashion industry does its part by using only natural fibers in the manufacture of its garments, from organic farming , thus avoiding synthetic textiles that biodegrade more difficultly and pollute the planet much more.
  • Sustainable transportation. Transportation is one of the great dilemmas in the world of sustainable development, since the burning of fossil fuels , the main input for conventional automobiles, wreaks havoc on the earth's atmosphere . Therefore, quality public transport should be promoted, as well as the possibility of electrifying vehicles or replacing them with even healthier options for life , such as cycling.
  • Sustainable energy. The great dilemma of the century is to find a way to obtain energy that is sustainable, that is, that does not damage our planet, and that at the same time is safe, reliable and efficient . For some time it was believed that atomic energy could be the solution, but the risk of accidents is a real problem. There are those who bet on atomic fusion, but our technology is still far from reaching it. So in the meantime, you must invest in renewable energy , such as wind , hydro or solar .

Sustainable development and sustainable development

There is a discrepancy regarding the interpretation and use of these two terms, which come from the ambiguity in the translation of the English word sustainable development .

The problem arises from the fact that the two terms are not entirely synonymous: “sustainable development” is an efficient process, capable of lasting over a period of time ; while "sustainable development" implies an effective process, which meets an immediate need in the here and now. Thus, all sustainable development must be sustainable, but not vice versa.

Sustainable economic development

Although there is no concrete and concise agreement on how to achieve sustainable development in economic matters, it is known that it will most likely move away from the economic paradigm that prevails today. In other words, a certain economic creativity or a profound change is needed to address the economic challenges of sustainability, and which can be summarized as:

  • Obtaining sustainable, safe and continuous energy , since it is an essential element in the contemporary human way of life and production.
  • The design of a manufacturing model that includes recycling and the use of non-polluting materials.
  • The implementation of measures that promote an equitable distribution of resources , that is, that promote equity , but at the same time are profitable.

Sustainable development in Mexico

Like so many other countries, the Mexican nation did not pay much attention to the economic and social cost of population growth , much less to the ecological impact , except when it was too late, as in the infamous case of Mexico City, one of the cities most polluted on the planet.

In the 1970s, institutions were created to ensure the environmental well-being of the Mexican ecosystem. However, it was not until the 1980s that the concept of sustainable development began to be heard , with the creation of the Secretariat for Urban Development and Ecology (SEDUE) and the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA).

Since then, official organizations have not stopped being created to attend to the search for a sustainable development model. In addition, between 2000 and 2013, around eight important laws on the matter were enacted and reformed .

However, the changes required to advance in this direction are structural and represent a sustained effort from different segments of society . For this reason, in Mexico environmental degradation and resource depletion have been continuous, as has the advance of social marginalization and the weakening of formal employment.

Like other Latin American nations , Mexico is moving towards sustainable development, dragging important deficiencies and weaknesses.

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