Environment and Sustainable Development, of late, have emerged as the major topics of debate today in Namibia, Africa and the world at large. Despite the fact that development is necessary to tackle the demands of the ever-increasing population, it is equally significant to keep the environment as much as possible undisturbed so as to strike a sense of balance between the environment and development. At present, there is a great driving force on environment and sustainable development across the globe. The Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as “a development that meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs.”
Environment and Sustainable Development is a very vital concept. It’s essential for Namibia, for Africa and for the world in general. But what does environment and sustainable development really mean? I think for us to understand better the concept of environment and sustainable development, we got to understand how crowded the world is today. The world’s population is currently estimated to be at 7.4 billion people living on Earth. The numbers have tremendously increased. Research has revealed that the world’s population is of right now up to ten times since the beginning of the industrial revolution in Britain in the late 1700s. The United Nations has also warned several times that billions of people are most likely to be added to the world’s population in the 21st century. This is surely making for a very complex world and put more unsustainable pressure on our natural environment. If you look at our societies in Namibia, in Africa or anywhere else, you would become more conscious that the world is divided between immense prosperity and still crippling poverty. Our modern world is facing unprecedented environmental challenges arising mostly from economic developmental activities aimed at sustaining the fast growing human population. As such, environment and sustainable development is really two ideas. One, is a way to comprehend this complex world we live in. We need to understand how the economic, social, environmental, political and cultural factors fit together? Whereas, the second aspect of environment and sustainable development is the idea of rational goals for this crowded, cohesive planet.
But when you look at to the above-mentioned ideas about environment and sustainable development, we would arrive to a question that seeks answers: how do we make the world prosperous, fair and also environmentally sustainable, in order that our numbers and our economy don’t overrun the physical planet itself? The world needs to get into that complexity with a better understanding. We have to embrace complexity, because we are dealing with a complex, interconnected set of relations of a world economy that now spans all parts of the world. This connects all people, all businesses, finance, production systems, technologies in flows of trade, ideas, advertising, but also connects us with the physical Earth, in unparalleled ways. Civilization is in fact changing the climate, changing what specie survive on the planet, changing the chemistry of the ocean, changing the safety of the air, changing the safety of animals, loss of biodiversity, changing the availability and access of fresh water. It’s indeed an unprecedented situation.
This is a very fascinating situation and it will be a challenge of our generation in Namibia, in Africa and the world. However, the world has been hard at work to see what we can figure out of all of this challenging situation and how through that knowledge we can do something about it. Both Europe and America have already gone far, and Asia has indeed started to pick up, they are definitely on the right track. Africa as a continent remains the major supply of all resources needed to develop Europe, America and now Asia. China who is among the Asian giants, continue to exploit our natural resources in Africa without any effort to develop Africa. But Asian countries have joined hands to assist each other. Asia has become the global harbour of information and technology and this is what is driving their economic development. If you look at countries like China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Philippine, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, among others, have all developed so tremendously in the recent years. When you look at the above-mentioned countries, they all have this remarkable piece of technology in a form of public transport, the high-speed railway trains which carry people at a speed of more than more than 200 kilometres per hour, to and from the city or the airports. They are such magnificent pieces of technology. Products of joint work of major leading engineering companies in China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. None of these countries including the Europeans and Americans bothered to bring this technological development approach to Namibia, and other African countries. All what they bring to us, are their exploitation projects that will damage our natural environment and they will run away with our natural resources.
But how do you attain environment and sustainable development in a very low income, very, very crowded place like Dhaka of Bangladesh and other developing countries especially in Africa, South East Asian countries, South America and the Carribeans. Particularly taking into consideration how vulnerable low-lying majority of developing countries especially in Asia and Africa are to the climate change ahead. So, environment and sustainable development for us environmentalists, first, is a way to understand these complicated challenges. I believe it’s valuable to think of there being four dimensions to this mystery: economics, environment, society, and communities. How do economic, social, environmental and government systems intermingle? The second way to think about environment and sustainable development is not only as an investigative approach, one that takes a holistic view of our society. But also as what we would call a normative or ethical approach, identifying goals for society. Sustainable development urges us to have a holistic vision of what a good society should be.
But if we continue on the current path that fundamentally changes the Earth’s climate in a way that’s unrecognizable for us, in the way that humanity has developed, then we are going to face grave dangers. Consequently, from a normative perspective, environmental sustainability certainly seems right. That is if we care most about the well-being of our children and future generations. And for most of us we also care very much how government functions. We are living in places like in Africa with massive corruption, with lawlessness and dictatorship. Where the politicians are not to be trusted. Where government services are not fair and lack of accountability is the order of the day. Where there’s massive discrimination especially to those who criticise the politicians, insider dealing and so forth. And this is the reason why you got a country in Africa like Ghana that got independence on the very same year with South Korea, yet Ghana remains millions of miles behind Korea in terms of development.
In conclusion, our fundamental question would be how can we take environment and sustainable development as a goal? There are some very powerful ways forward to meet environment and sustainable development as a goal, a shared goal for Namibia, for Africa and for the planet.
*Kassian T.T. Amesho is a PhD student at the Institute of Environmental Engineering, National Sun Yat-sen University. He holds MSc. Degree in Environmental Science [from North-Eastern Hill University, INDIA], MBA Degree [majoring in Business Ethics and Corporate Governance, RBS South Africa], B.Sc: Environmental Health Sciences, National Diploma in Natural Resources Management [NUST, formerly known as Polytechnic of Namibia].