Environmental sustainability is utilizing the available resources for our current needs without affecting the needs of the future generation. Sustainability emphasizes that humans depend on the environment for their survival. The social and economic needs of all generations can be maintained when humans and the environment co-exist in synchronization.
Humans depend on water and other resources to protect both health and the environment. Population growth, economic growth, and overconsumption of natural resources have caused negative effects on social, economic, and environmental factors of the globe.
Environmental sustainability aims at maintaining population growth, Encompasses, e.g. keeping population densities below the carrying capacity of a region, aiding the regeneration of renewable resources, use of non-renewable resources, allowing recovery and evolution of the environment by keeping the negative impact on the environment minimized (Morelli 23).
Sustainability ensures that the degradation of the environment is compensated for the effects of human activity on the environment. With the increase of environmental challenges, the most affected areas experience critical climatic changes. By managing economic, environmental, and social factors responsible for the environment is sustained to the desired level.
Renewable and exhaustible physical inputs such as forests and minerals are natural resources. The atmosphere, water, and soil aid the existence of natural resources thus they need to be protected from continuous damage by humans. Therefore, the maintenance of natural resources is known as economic sustainability. Social sustainability aims at maintaining the life support systems such as water and soil at balanced levels. Poverty reduction can be done by sharing resources equally and controlling population growth. Environmental, social, and economic sustainability lead to sustainable development (Goodland 2).
Systems that support human life need to be maintained because they provide essential inputs such as water, air, and absorb outputs. These systems should be maintained and not over used, for example, emission of CFCs from industries leads to degradation of the Ozone layer, and hence humans and the ecosystem are exposed to ultra-violet rays (Goodland 11).
Humans are the main dependants on other species for their food, shelter, air, and waste absorption. Therefore, environmental sustainability is extremely essential for the survival of human beings. Organizations all over the world, such as World Bank Group, Microsoft, and EPA, among others are working with government, policymakers, non-profit organizations, and researchers to address the challenges facing the environment. Some of these organizations are improving energy efficiency, increasing the use of renewable energy, and reducing air travel by use of technology. By addressing these environmental challenges, people can reduce carbon emission and achieve sustainability.
The concepts of environmental sustainability are scale and context, and consumption. It is managed on different scales and in social, economic, and environmental organizations. The biological and human activity on the environment should be equivalent to the carrying capacity of the earth. The environment is unstable and changes over many scales of time and space.
Human consumption through biological and physical resources has extreme impacts on the environment. Rapid population growth increases the use of resources, whether renewable or non-renewable. Human activity should be equivalent to the carrying capacity of the Earth to achieve sustainability. Responsible management of agricultural, manufacturing, and industrial resources at different scales will help control the impact of human activity on the environment (Foy 778).
The rapid growth of the population in developing countries and overconsumption of resources are major challenges to environmental sustainability. This means that humans are surpassing the carrying capacity of the earth. The global challenges of the environment are caused by human activity and can only be controlled by humans. To achieve sustainability, population growth should be limited to maintain a balance. Fossil fuels over exploiting forests and fisheries cause unsustainable use of resources, which leads to environmental shortfalls.
Population growth has major effects on the consumption and effectiveness of resources and their uses. To achieve sustainability, the living standards may be raised without overusing the available resources.
Human impact on biodiversity is evident through changes in biogeochemical cycles such as water, oxygen, and carbon, among others. Since human activity has increased impacts on the range of organisms in an ecological community of the global environment. It reduces the flexibility and capacity of biodiversity in the environment.
The environment has to be maintained to provide humans with essential goods and services. These can be achieved by reducing negative human impact on the environment and improving environmental services. Environmental management and management of human consumption are approaches used to, directly and indirectly, to assist in reducing the negative impact of human activities (Morelli 25).
Responsible management of land, oceans, forests, atmosphere, and home gardens leads to environmental sustainability. The atmosphere is affected by carbon emission into the air, which causes global warming. Global warming causes erratic climate change, which may be irreversible and difficult for the existence of humans. Therefore, the challenge for organizations is to monitor the carbon cycle to control human impact’s effects on climate change.
Industries release pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, which produce CFCs, acid rain, and photochemical smog into the air, causing air pollution. The results of air pollution in the environment are the degradation of the ozone layer. Humans also use aerosols with harmful chemicals that are responsible for global dimming. Global diming reduces rainfall and evaporation because of the disturbance of the water cycle.
The water bodies of the Earth are either fresh or salty; the oceans which represent most of the water bodies are salty while the freshwater bodies are mainly found in the Antarctic, glaciers, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere. To maintain environmental services, water resources should be managed responsibly. Mismanagement of these resources has resulted in the loss of more than half of the wetlands. Pollution in urban areas as a result of the increased movement to the urban centers is a major contributor to the pollution of freshwater bodies. People are encouraged to harvest water and use green water for their plants to achieve water management and sustainability.
The oceans are a source of food for humans and another organism which depends on them. The oceans cycle also affects the climatic and weather conditions of an area, therefore, they should be well managed to perform adequately. Climate change causes sea levels to rise, human activities such as fishing beyond sustainable levels, and dumping of human waste disturb the ocean currents, which may lead to irreversible conditions. However, these can be managed by establishing controlled fishing, aquaculture, and fish farming, improving waste management, and reducing fossil fuel emission into the oceans.
Land development, forestry, and agriculture have led to the loss of biodiversity. The effects of urbanization and agriculture are evident in the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles, which have negative impacts on the human and natural systems of the environment. Sustainability can be achieved by developing parks, gardens, and green cities.
Almost half of the world’s forest cover has been damaged by human activity. Deforestation is increasing rapidly in tropical regions, which is a major challenge to the environment. Forests assist in maintaining the health of watersheds, which are essential for the habitat of humans and other living organisms. Forests help in trapping water, thus controlling the flow of water, which may cause flooding. Forests help in filtering pollutants in rainwater such as sediments, fertilizers, gasoline, and pesticides before they flow into the streams and rivers eventually improving the quality of water. Another importance of forests is that it is a source of and shelter for living organisms.
Forests play an important role in environmental and economic sustainability. They provide life support systems such as the supply of timber, fuelwood, and wood products, forests are a natural habitat for biodiversity and provision for recreation of ecotourism, these benefits can be either social or economic.
To achieve forest sustainability, people have to be encouraged to practice agroforestry, forest landscape restoration, maintaining watersheds, and foresting protected areas. Organizations should set realistic goals for forest management, the goals should be flexible to allow input from other interested parties, and the goals should be affordable and accessible to organizations and the local community.
Sustainable agriculture is the opposite of the industrial approach. The use of land for agricultural development has led to soil erosion, soil depletion, and contamination of soil and water resources. Agricultural practices encourage the use of monoculture and the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Sustainable agriculture encourages the use of organic, low input, and biodynamic techniques. These techniques are efficient because they help minimize land tiling and usage of water. Pesticides are minimized by using organisms that control pests, and the health of soils is improved by planting different crops every year. On the other hand, sustainable agriculture promotes fair treatment of farmworkers and improvement of food prices to increase the income of farmers.
Human consumption has a major impact on the environment. Humans are the main consumers of goods and services produced by the environment. The effect of human consumption can be reduced by minimizing the rate of consumption, increasing production, and making both use and disposal sustainable (Tester 420).
Management of consumption may be maintained through the consumption chain. Lifestyle choices of individual and spending patterns have effects on the consumption of some resources. By studying consumption, there is a comparison between available resources and use, and the effect on environmental, social, and economic factors. To understand the impacts of consumption, the available resources and production of resources have to be considered first (Tester 420). Food, shelter, transport, and energy consumption, cause a major impact on the environment, therefore, they should be controlled.
The technology relies heavily on the energy from the sun; however, humans are known to be the greatest contributors to carbon emission through fossil fuels and land use. To stop the degradation of the environment, large industries have to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Uncontrolled carbon emission causes erratic climate changes that are harmful to humans and other living things.
Besides reducing the use of fossil fuels, organizations are expected to reduce greenhouse emissions. Carbon emission should be completely reduced and organizations should closely monitor the use of fossil fuels.
Sustainable energy allows the use of energy without comprising the needs of future generations. Sustainable energy is provided by renewable energy and the availability of energy efficiency. Renewable energy is naturally generated from the surroundings. Renewable energy is likely to replace electricity, hot water heating, and motor fuels through the use of wind power, hydropower, solar energy, biomass, biofuel, and geothermal energy (Tester 420).
Wind power is generated by the use of wind and wind turbines to make electricity or windmills to make mechanical power. Wind power replaces fossil fuels because it is easily available, clean, and does not emit greenhouse gasses. Hydropower is the generation of electricity through the use of falling water. Solar energy is the generation of electricity from sunlight. Energy from the sun cannot be exhausted, it provides energy security for nations, and it reduces pollution and enhances sustainability (Tester, 420).
Energy efficiency is the reduction of the amount of energy used to produce goods and services. Energy efficiency helps decrease the cost of energy consumption and reduces the number of emissions into the atmosphere. Efficiency energy use reduces the demand for fossil fuels, hence minimizing pollution. Efficiency energy use can be practiced by using fluorescent lighting and insulating the house to reduce the amount of heating required (Tester 422).
The use of water has increased in the past as a result of developmental projects such as irrigation, dam construction, and the growth of industries. The overconsumption of water from the water sources affects the cycle of the water bodies i.e. rivers and lakes. It also affects the quality of water, making it unsafe for human consumption. Climate change and population growth have led to some water sources becoming extinct. Water for agricultural use is in high demand followed by industrial and domestic use.
Freshwater is renewable resources yet there is no sustainability because the use of water is more than available resources. Lakes and rivers are slowly disappearing as a result of human activity and climate change. Deforestation is a major contributor to the disappearance of lakes and rivers.
Water efficiency is the reduction of waste of water. This can be achieved by using a shower to bathe, washing fruits in a bowl, and fixing leaking taps, among others. In industries, water efficiency can be achieved by fixing leaks, re-using water, and changing manufacturing processes to non-wasteful procedures. Farmers should be trained to use efficient irrigation methods to conserve water. The new technology of irrigation helps to prevent water pollution and, at the same time, improve food security. With improved irrigation technology there is increased production even in areas that depend on rain.
Food sustainability is the provision of food without affecting the environment so that there is a possibility to produce food for the next generations. Production of nutritious food that is accessible and affordable to the local community is one of the aims of food sustainability. Food security reduces the rate of poverty in a community and protects the community. People should practice healthy eating habits which will help in reducing the causes of obesity and overweight. Foods that are low in fats and high in fiber are recommended for good health yet they do not hurt the environment. Seafood is also essential to the diet of human beings, however, overfishing should be controlled to avoid impacting the ecosystem (Foy 775).
Different organizations have formulated ways of creating a sustainable environment. The use of initiatives such as Environmentally Responsible Redevelopment and Reuse (ER3) is good for cleaning up polluted areas. ER3 is essential for maintaining clean environments and re-using waste. Use of both principles and practices of sustainability assists in reducing negative effects on the environment as a result of pollution.
To ensure successful ER3, organizations should identify and motivate property owners to carry out sustainable cleaning of the environment. The government, NGOs, and private companies should work together to find ways to create sustainable development.
Buildings protect people from climate changes such as rain, wind, and sun; however, the buildings can be a cause of health and environmental problems. To resolve this problem, experts have formulated green buildings. Green buildings help in creating a healthy environment through the use of materials that do not impact the environment negatively.
Sustainable building ensures efficient use of water, energy, and other resources they reduce pollution, ecosystem depletion, and waste. The use of recycled materials and environmentally friendly materials in the building helps to achieve sustainable building.
Sustainability can be a combination of the environment, the economy, and society or a relationship between human beings and the environment. There should be the availability of clean water, air, and productive land that enhances a responsible socioeconomic system (Foy 773).
To achieve a sustainable environment, we have to achieve a sustainable economy and a sustainable society. The three factors depend on each other to create sustainability. On the other hand, a sustainable environment does not depend on society and economy it can stand alone.
Humans depend on the environment for their survival for services such as food, natural medicine, pharmaceuticals, and genetic resources. The environment helps to improve the quality of air, purify water, waste management, climate control, and regulate natural hazards. The environment is also important for soil formation and photosynthesis, and water cycling. The ecosystem is essential for recreation, cognitive development, and spiritual reflection, which are essential for the well-being of humans (Morelli 12).
Environmental sustainability may seem uncertain, but governments and organizations should put more effort to achieve the required results. Environmental challenges face the entire globe; however, some countries are more responsible for the damage than others. Developed countries should take the initiative to move towards sustainability to encourage the developing countries to do the same. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the developed countries can lead by example to developing nations (Goodland 19).
To achieve sustainability, nations should encourage reuse and recycle systems, maintain the rate of degradation of non-renewable resources below that of renewable resources, encourage the use of raw materials that promote biodiversity and use of sustainable energy and energy efficiency. Environmental sustainability may seem difficult for many nations, but when there is a will to maintain the environment in a healthy condition then the challenges will be overcome. Nations and organizations have to consume responsibly so as not to affect the needs of future generations.
Foy, George. “Economic Sustainability and the Preservation of Environmentals.” Journal of Environmental Management 14.8 (1990): 771-778.
Goodland, Robert. The Concept of Environmental Sustainability. Washington DC: Annual Reviews Inc. 1995.
Morelli, John. Environmental Sustainability: A Definition for Environmental Professionals. n.d. Web.
Tester, Jefferson. Sustainable Energy: Choosing Among Options. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2005. Print.