Population and Sustainable Development

Populationand Sustainable Development

Populationand Sustainable Development

Theconcept of sustainable development and population are closely relatedin the sense that the size of the population affects sustainabledevelopment directly. According to the Brundtland report of 1987,sustainable development is defined as the process through which“people can meet their basic needs and improve the quality of theirlives in the present without compromising the ability of futuregenerations to sustain themselves” (Atkinsonet al., 2014).The growth and distribution of the population is closely linked toelements such as poverty, natural resource use, environmentalconditions, and social and economic development.

Unsustainableconsumption and production patterns are exhausting natural resourcescausing degradation of the environment and consequently leading topoverty and widespread social inequalities. The exponentialpopulation growth in the world today translates to increasedconsumption, which requires an increase in production and services.This implies that the wellbeing of humans cannot be separated fromeconomic growth, and it affects the environment negatively.Therefore, meeting the needs of a large population requires an urgentshift to a sustainable economy that is characterized by sustainableproduction and consumption models (Atkinsonet al., 2014).

Similarly,for most people, seeking a higher quality of life implies improvingtheir living standards, which is measured using their level of incomeand resource and technology use. Nonetheless, a sustainable model ofdevelopment necessitates equality. For instance, environmental andeconomic goals cannot drive sustainability unless social goals- suchas access to education and health – are attained (Atkinsonet al., 2014).Therefore, at any level of development, the impact of humans on theenvironment is highly dependent on the size of the population,consumption level and the environmental damage produced by thetechnology employed in production processes.

Technologicalgrowth has enhanced people`s lives in many ways. However, this growthhas played a critical role in the global challenges experienced inthe twenty-first century. On one arm, scientific, technologicaladvances have promised improvement in the quality of living byeliminating diseases and improving people`s standards of living. Onthe contrary, extraction of resources and production processes havecaused pollution of soil, water, and air, which has created anenvironmental crisis resulting in irreversible changes to theenvironment. While the future holds great potential for theacceleration of technological growth, the extent and impact ofenvironmental deprivation may reflect that change, as well.

Acommon paradox in the world today is that despite the ongoingtechnological growth, the greater proportion of the world populationstill lives in poverty characterized by insufficient food, energy,and housing, and afflicted by diseases due to lack of clean water anddrugs (Atkinsonet al., 2014).Nevertheless, the good news is that a significant number ofdeveloping countries are on the verge of development fueled bytechnology growth that has helped some segments of their populations.

Forthat reason, it is arguable that technology cannot lead tosustainable development because besides improving people’s lives,it leads to environmental degradation. Technological innovation cancause unwanted or unintended consequences. Therefore, technology canlead to sustainable development only if the appropriate models aredeveloped. Appropriate technology implies that which can fit wellinto the natural systems, and work harmoniously with nature, insteadof dominating it. This is consistent with Daly’s recommendation oneconomic growth, which requires state restriction on resource use toensure a steady-state economy. Therefore, sustainable development canonly be achieved if the right types of technology are developed towork in harmony with nature, or if the state regulates resource useto avoid depletion and adverse impacts on the environment.Development of appropriate technologies can be promoted by exploringother alternatives that are yet to be developed.

Sustainabilityis a broad concept that focuses on the functioning of natural systemsto ensure an ecological balance. Sustainability is key for thesurvival of human beings on earth now and in the future. In thatregard, a sustainable future can be defined as that which allows“people to meet their needs without compromising the ability offuture generations to meet their needs,” as noted in the Brundtlandreport of 1987 (Atkinsonet al., 2014).This definition boils down to the concept of sustainable development,which is virtually the same. Today, human beings are continuouslythreatening their ability to enjoy live on earth in the future. Toensure a sustainable future, social and political foundations shouldbe established within the environmental limits, and people shouldrealize their potential to meet their needs in this framework.

Theneed for sustainability in the world is inevitable both at presentand in the future. Attaining a sustainable future ought to be acreative process in which every person plays an active role. As thedefinition suggests, the ability of the future generation to meettheir needs depends on the present generation’s ability to do sowithout destroying the environment or engaging in activities thatexhaust the natural resource reserves. This cannot only befacilitated by proactive action to protect the environment but also,through a check on the population growth rate. This is because thehigher the population, the higher the pressure that will be exertedon the world`s resources. This will eventually dwindle any chances ofcreating a sustainable future.


Atkinson,G., Dietz, S., Neumayer, E., &amp Agarwala, M. (Eds.).(2014).Handbookof sustainable development.Edward Elgar Publishing.