Benefits of Sustainable Development
The primary benefit of how sustainable development affects the environment is to the environment itself. The practice allows for decisions which do not destroy the environment for immediate gains. Rather, development considers how future generations will be impacted and makes wise decisions regarding the use of the resource. It also considers the consequences of its actions to avoid creating other problems.
The United States has its own history of disregard for the future availability of natural resources. One only has to look at the losses of old-growth timber. Over 80 percent of the old growth forests have been lost since European settlement, estimates the Sierra Forest Legacy.The resource was depleted faster than it could replenish its stores.
Sustainable development places value on the resource that goes beyond the immediate financial gain. Generally, ecosystems are fairly resilient. They can sustain stress and change to some degree through adaptations. It is when change exceeds the ecosystem's ability to adapt that detrimental environment effects occur. Sustainable development seeks to identify this balance.
Agriculture takes a heavy toll on the health of the environment through agricultural runoff and some farming practices. Sustainable development in agriculture focuses on ways to reduce these impacts through better management practices.
Farmers can accomplish this in several ways. One way they can do this is through Integrated Pest Management or IPM. By minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use, farmers can protect their land and adjacent lands from their effects. Famers can practice crop or grazing plot rotation to reduce the effects of soil erosion and nonpoint source pollution from runoff. The farmer and the environment benefit from the preservation of topsoil.
Likewise, forestry practices can create sustainable resources through planned harvest and avoidance of clear-cutting. Rotation of sun-tolerant and intolerant species can ensure the land and soil are protected. Sustainable development of forests recognizes that trees provide environmental benefits that go beyond timber harvesting.
It recognizes that the biological diversity of forests must be maintained in order to protect the health of the ecosystem. It acknowledges the forests' role in carbon dioxide sequestration, the process of removal and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide in trees and other vegetation.
Ecotourism fosters sustainable development by helping local populations see the value of their natural resources. This type of tourism practices minimal impact and an approach to building environmental awareness in local communities and ecotourists.
Local populations receive direct financial benefits from their natural resources, which empower them and give them the knowledge to make informed decisions regarding their environment. Ecotourists, in turn, take back this message of sustainable development.
The question of how sustainable development affects the environment is dependent upon knowledge. With knowledge of the value of the natural resources as well as the consequence of their destruction can people realize the impact of their choices. In this way, the environment will maintain its health and vitality for future generations.
- Sierra Forest Legacy: Old-growth Forests of the Sierra Nevada – www.sierraforestlegacy.org
- Untamed Path: Defining Ecotourism – www.untamedpath.com