By Cynthia Jin, ’23, and Esther Jin, ’23
Tree huggers, vegan hippies, people who would ditch convenient practices to save a single tree. Environmentalist stereotypes push this lifestyle, but how important is sustainability really? What does sustainability even mean?
Unknown to many, the concept of sustainability is one that is interdisciplinary and spans many subjects that may seem quite detached.
The United Nations Brundtland Commission defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” So this concept extends outside of the environmental realm.
Let’s talk about economics (we almost failed AP Econ, but trust us on this).
When you think of economics, does sustainability come to mind at all? Probably not. Typically, the goal of a business in our capitalistic world is to make the maximum profit at the lowest possible cost. In the first Mr. Lu AP Econ class, we learn that “resources are limited but human wants are unlimited.”
The idea that resources are limited but human wants are unlimited highlights the need for us to use our resources wisely and efficiently. To try to keep our economic growth on an upwards slope is impossible if we aren’t mindful of our consumption, natural resources, and our future generations. If we deplete our natural resources without considering their long-term sustainability, we may see short-term economic gains, but we will ultimately harm the economy in the long run. Preserving our natural resources helps to promote economic growth and development in a way that is sustainable over the long term.
While many countries are still focusing on fossil fuels to increase their economy, China has been cutting down on fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable forms of energy in order to maintain its status as an economic superpower. With the global population expected to continue growing (it already exceeds over 8 billion), it’s important to stimulate the economy without depleting our natural resources or damaging the environment.
But what about the social aspects?
Wait, that doesn’t seem so correlated…right? How do human rights find their way back to sustainability? Well, we’ll begin with the fact that women in lesser-developed countries and those living in poverty have little to no access to education. Their lack of education and opportunities forces them to rely on manual labour work to provide for themselves and their families.
In these countries, it’s common for mothers to have many children, due to reasons such as low levels of education and limited access to healthcare, but most predominantly, as a way to support the family. With women living in poverty, they may not have access to information about family planning and contraception which leads to higher rates of unintended pregnancies.
Believe it or not, children and sustainability are inversely correlated. In fact, according to project Drawdown, a research organization dedicated to investigating the most effective solutions to climate change, educating women and girls can decrease 51.48 gigatons of atmospheric carbon dioxide equivalent. Advocating for human rights is not just the goal itself, but also the key to a more sustainable world.
We’re not forcing you to take action and change your whole lifestyle to be 100% sustainable. That’s an unrealistic expectation. However, we are hoping to bring a new perspective on this topic. Think more. Have an open mind. What is sustainability? How does it apply to you?