"Universities need to integrate sustainable development into the curriculum exactly the way Lehigh is doing with its undergraduate program.”
-Prof. Jeffrey Sachs
Director of The Earth Institute
Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, Columbia University
Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
What does SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT mean?
“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (the Brundtland Commission)
While the definition above is the most commonly quoted response, Sustainable Development can be more succinctly summed up in the following four words: inclusive and sustainable growth.
Development is the noun; sustainable is the adjective.
But what does it mean to develop sustainably? Most people associate sustainability with the environment, but this is actually just one of three pillars to sustainability. Indeed, to be truly sustainable, not only must ecological protection be ensured, but also economic well-being must ensure that humans are able to meet their own needs, and social inclusion must ensure that this well-being extends to all in an equitable manner.
So, according to this definition, how are we doing? Well, if you look at economic growth as accounted for by GDP per capita over the years, you might at first glance be encouraged. Billions have moved out of material poverty in a matter of generations, with access to longer, healthier lives and things that would have been unimaginable just decades ago. Yet too many humans are still unable to meet their basic needs, a first indicator that economic development to date has not occurred in a sustainable manner. Moreover, even this limited economic growth has come at a high cost to the natural environment, calling into question yet again the sustainability of our development to date.
By the year 2050, the global population is expected to reach 9 billion persons. The challenge of sustainable development is how to proceed in such a way that each of these 9 billion persons can enjoy a dignified quality of life in an equitable way that does not compromise our natural surroundings.
Indeed, this task is as complex as it is urgent, which is why we choose to focus our attention on it here at Lehigh University through the Sustainable Development Program.
Director and Professor of Practice in Sustainable Development
Read more about Sustainable Development in the College of Arts & Sciences, acumen, Spring 2013. Click here...
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