Natural environment has a remarkable ability to rejuvenate and sustain itself. For example, when a tree falls, it decomposes, adding nutrients to the soil. These nutrients help sustain suitable conditions so future saplings can grow. When nature is left alone, it has a tremendous ability to care for itself. However, when any living entity enters the picture and uses many of the natural resources provided by the environment, things change. Human actions can deplete natural resources, and without the application of environmental sustainability methods, long-term viability can be compromised.
Environmental sustainability is defined as an accountable interface with the environment to avoid depletion or degradation of natural resources. Environmental sustainability initiatives help in ensuring that the needs of today’s population are met without endangering the ability of future generations to meet their needs. For environmental sustainability, the state of the future – as measured in 50, 100 and 1,000 years is the guiding principle.
Many of the projects that are rooted in environmental sustainability will involve replanting forests, preserving wetlands and protecting natural areas from resource harvesting (harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns).
The biggest criticism of environmental sustainability initiatives is that their priorities can be at odds with the needs of a growing industrialized society.
But according to Dennis Weaver “We don’t have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment”
The Constitution of India stipulates that the country shall try to improve and protect the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife of the country.
Ministry of environment and forest ( MoEF ) was established in 1985, which today is the apex administrative body in the country for regulating and ensuring environmental protection and lays down the legal and regulatory framework for the same. Since the 1970s, many environment legislations have been put in place. The MoEF and the pollution control boards (“CPCB”, ie, Central Pollution Control Board and “SPCBs”, ie, State Pollution Control Boards) together form the regulatory and administrative core of the sector. Following are some of the important legislations pertaining to environment protection:
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (the “Air Act”).
- The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974 (the “Water Act”)
- The Environment Protection Act, 1986 (the “Environment Act”) provides for the protection and improvement of the environment.
- The Wild Life (Protection) Act,.
- The Biological Diversity Act 2002
Applications of Environmental Sustainability:
The three major applications of environmental sustainability are in the field of agriculture, forestry and energy.
- Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture is defined as the use of farming techniques that protect the environment. It has grown out of concerns over the industrialization of agriculture that began in the 20th century. Although industrial agriculture can produce abundant amounts of food at affordable prices, the method of farming can be detrimental to the environment. Industrial agricultural methods are heavily reliant on chemical fertilizers and pesticides and put high demands on soil and water resources. These methods can lead to water pollution when chemicals run off into waterways, depleting the water resources due to overuse, and soil erosion and aggressive planting. With sustainable agriculture, farmers minimize water use and lower the dependence on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. They also minimize tillage of the soil and rotate crop planting each year to ensure higher soil quality.
- Sustainable Forestry
Sustainable forestry is another application of environmental sustainability. This is defined as the practice of regulating forest resources to meet the needs of society and industry while preserving the forest’s health. Forests are important to local and national economies. Wood can be used as a source of fuel, timbers can be used in the construction industry and wood pulp can be used in the manufacture of paper. Forests have economical as well as environmental benefits. Forests also play a key role in the water cycle. Tree roots gather water from the ground and release it into the air as water vapor. If forests are cleared without environmental sustainability methods in place, these benefits are lost.
One application of sustainable forestry is selective logging. Selective logging is the practice of removing certain trees while preserving the balance of the woodland. Other examples of sustainable forestry include allowing young trees time to mature before they are harvested, planting of trees to expand forestlands and the creation of protected forests. While sustainable forestry practices are more time-consuming and may be more expensive than clearing all the trees from a forest, the forest’s natural assets are sustained for future generations.
- Sustainable Energy
This can be defined as energy that is produced from a renewable source. Therefore, sustainable energy would be energy captured from the sun, wind, moving water or energy crops( crops grown to be converted into biofuels). The alternative to sustainable energy is energy from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas. These forms of energy are non-renewable because they only rely on a raw material that cannot be replaced during a lifetime. Fossil fuels also create negative effects for the environment when they are burned for energy because they release greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. When greenhouse gases are present in the atmosphere, they trap heat and increase the temperature of the earth’s surface. The burning of fossil fuels is thought to lead to an enhanced greenhouse effect, which is an increase in natural heating of the earth due to human actions.
The growing population and the rate of consumption of natural resources has placed a big stress on the environment. The crying need is for sustainable development which aims at development which does not have a negative impact on the environment and society. Careful use of resources and maximum use of non- conventional energy resources will enable us to attain sustainable development. Our natural environment makes human life possible and our cultural environment defines who we are. Therefore its essential that our population and economic growth are environmentally sustainable.
Environmental Sustainability. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://www.thwink.org/sustain/glossary/EnvironmentalSustainability.html
What is Environmental Sustainability and Sustainable Development? (2016, December 24). Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/what-is-environmental-sustainability-and-sustainable-development.php