In the World Commission on Environment and Development’s article, “From One Earth to One World,” sustainable development is addressed and the article particularly focuses on the interlocking crises of environmental degradation and the struggle for economic development. As sustainable development becomes a hot topic, there is a greater international pressure placed upon countries to push make a united decision in pushing aside their economic development in order to do what is environmentally manageable.
While the WCED makes a valid point in appealing for better sustainable development for both developing nations and for the industrial nations, the international pressure does make a seemingly politicized and unjust decision for developing countries that are struggling to advance their economic growth at the expense of the environment. Developed countries such as the US happened to have industrialized before the environmental degradation was recognized as a serious current issue. So is it completely fair to tell a country like India that it cannot sustain a new factory to provide jobs for its citizens? Moreover, it seems unfair to make these decisions for other countries when developed world citizens, such as Americans, partake in a staggering amount of overconsumption despite their education and awareness for the environment.
I think this logic has permeated in many situations and potential solutions aimed at resolving overpopulation, environmental degradation and sustainable development. There is the constant question of, “Why should I suffer and sacrifice when I know that Entity X gets to enjoy the things that I willingly give up?” Consequently, I ask myself whether or not there is an applicable model of sustainable development.
While living in Shanghai last semester, I considered the development of mega-cities as a possibility offering multiple solutions to economic development, overpopulation and environmental degradation. A few major benefits of mega-cities:
- With limited housing come smaller households; parents tend to have fewer children, which cuts down on population growth
- Public transportation not only permits affordable mobility for all classes of city dwellers, but also reduces emissions and resource consumption
- While cities are not the most beneficial for the poor and tend to work best for the wealthy, cities still offer greater job prospects and opportunities to earn a living rather than depend directly on natural resources in the rural areas
- When city infrastructure is built more closely together, less energy per capita is spent
And a final, overarching benefit of mega-cities seems to be the greater likelihood of developing a centralized culture of environmental awareness in the cities. Within a mega-city with so many people, it seems more apparent that resources are indeed shared, vast expanses of land cannot always be conquered and inhabited, space is limited, and there is indeed a limit to competition. In essence, everyone is aware that sacrifices have to be made. Mega-cities are by no means the perfect solution to overpopulation and environmental degradation, and they definitely come with their own set of baggage—but I believe they are definitely worth considering.