Then Vice President Al Gore noted at a national confer-
ence in 1993 that the term
that “there’s something called
He and many others would agree that our current develop-
ment path fits that bill. You will see evidence of this through-
out this book.
Sustainable development, although something of a new-
comer on the political scene, is not a new idea by any stretch
of the imagination. In fact, more than 90 years ago, U.S.
President Theodore Roosevelt alluded to the concept in his
annual message to Congress, a speech that has since become
known as the State of the Union address. Roosevelt noted,
“To waste our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the
land instead of using it (so) as to increase its usefulness, will
[undermine the prospects] of our children.” He went on to
talk about “the very prosperity which we ought by right to
hand down to [future generations] amplified and devel-
oped.” In other words, we ought to meet our needs without
foreclosing on future generations. Roosevelt was not the
first to hold such a view, either. Native American cultures and
indigenous peoples the world over have espoused a similar
view and lived accordingly for thousands of years before
Sustainable development, then, refers to improvements
or advancements in human well-being that are enduring.
Advocates of sustainable development concern themselves
with strategies designed to meet all human needs—not just
the need for a clean, healthy environment, but also needs for
respectable work, good pay, recreation, peace, freedom from
harm, and a host of other factors. Individuals clearly differ
in the goals they set for human development, but several
goals seem to be almost universal. These include a long and
healthy life, good education, and a decent standard of living.
The list also includes political freedom and a guarantee of hu-
man rights. Freedom from violence and meeting survival
needs for food, shelter, water, and clothing are also basic
goals of human development. The challenge today is to meet
these and other needs while protecting the environment.
Sustainable development strategies seek ways to forge
lasting relationships between humans and the environment,
ones that protect and restore ecosystems rather than destroy
and deplete them. Environmental protection is therefore
vital to the success of any state, local, or national develop-
ment plan. Sustainable development also seeks ways to cre-
ate enduring relationships among people (for example,
cooperative rather than adversarial) and a new economic
system that is kind to the Earth and to all individuals, all
genders, and all races. These measures are as important as
sound environmental policies.