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In recent years, debates about sustainability have permeated the scholarly landscape as researchers and policymakers attempt to develop strategies and initiatives that could be used to secure our future. Most of the debates have focused on how stakeholders can integrate environmental concerns with economic and social considerations to ensure a sustainable and fulfilling future for the present generation (Browne & Weiss 2014).
Other debates have focused on political and technological issues as the cornerstone for a sustainable future, arguing that political steadiness acts as a stabilizing force for other sustainability components to be achieved (Alipui & O’Shea 2015). While it is agreeable that these debates have their own merits and disadvantages, they all underscore the need to invest in education and ensure that the environment is conserved for future generations. Drawing from these elucidations, the present paper argues that the present generation can ensure a sustainable future by educating the population and minimizing man-made activities that continue to hurt the environment at unprecedented levels.
Understanding the Sustainability Concept
Most of the literature on sustainability has associated the concept with developmental issues to the point that sustainability is often perceived within the context of development (Browne & Weiss 2014). While it is clear that sustainability is not synonymous with development, it is worth mentioning that the two are interrelated in the context that human beings cannot be able to achieve a sustainable future without development.
To ensure a sustainable future, therefore, people need to adopt development models that incorporate “the social, economic, and environmental objectives of society to maximize human well-being in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Planning for a sustainable future 2010, p. 1).
The scope of this description demonstrates that human beings must not only reconcile their development efforts with the earth’s ecological systems to achieve sustainability, but also have the knowledge and information needed to make conscious decisions on how to avoid adverse economic, environmental, and social consequences (Prodham 2013). It is in this context that environmental conservation and investing in education are underscored in this paper as the most important things that people need to embrace to ensure a sustainable future.
Today, more than ever before, it is increasingly becoming clear that our future lifestyles and livelihoods are dependent on how well we preserve the environment. Ecological footprint calculations show that “our present situation is unsustainable in the long term, and we need to find ways in which we can meet our current needs that do not diminish the quality of the environment nor reduce the capacity of future generations to meet their needs” (Educating for a sustainable future 2005, p. 4).
This means that if we deplete the natural resources that support life on the planet, it is highly unlikely that we shall have a future since resources such as water, air, and soil are of immense value to our existence (Poland & Dooris 2010). As such, human beings need to engage in focused efforts aimed at preserving the environment through activities such as minimizing the degradation of land and waterways, ensuring that population growth is kept to manageable and sustainable levels, and reversing the continued decline of biodiversity by adopting sustainable farming practices (Browne & Weiss 2014).
Additionally, scholars have acknowledged that the environment serves as a central pillar through which human beings and other species obtain their food and water supplies (Poland & Dooris 2010). The many cases of people starving to death and walking for long distances in search of water show the centrality of the environment in safeguarding some of the most basic commodities that we need to survive.
Here, environmental preservation gains prominence over other important issues because scientists have demonstrated the capacity of the environment to provide adequate food and water supplies for present and future generations if concerted efforts are made to ensure that natural resources are used most equitably and sustainably (Alipui & O’Shea 2015). Consequently, it is evident that one of the surest ways to ensure a sustainable future is to preserve our environment with the view to reinforcing its capacity to continue producing the basic commodities that we need for survival.
The last argument in support of environmental conservation is embedded in the fact that we are bound to destroy life if we continue to encourage activities that lead to global warming and climate change. Scientists have already warned that global warming and climate change can destroy life on the planet if concerted efforts are not taken to reduce the carbon footprint and minimize the emission of other harmful gases (Poland & Dooris 2010).
Consequently, there may be no future to talk about if we continue to support development policies that endanger our very own existence by increasing the carbon footprint in the environment. The best way to ensure a sustainable future, it seems, is to adopt an environmentally friendly manufacturing process, preserve our water bodies, and make sure that more land is put under forest cover (Alipui & O’Shea 2015).
Investing in Education
Education has been positively associated with good health and improvements in living standards, with researchers drawing a correlation between the years spent in school on one hand and good health outcomes and high living standards on the other (Fredriksen & Fossberg 2014). Additionally, countries that have made heavy investments in educating their populations have been able to register faster economic development, low prevalence of diseases, and higher living standards (Konopnicki 2009).
These elucidations demonstrate that having a good educational background will enable us to live a more fulfilling and sustainable life as demonstrated by the fact that people who are well educated are more able to take care of their health and get employment in high-paying jobs than people who are less educated. Lastly, available literature demonstrates that investing in education enables people to acquire the skills and capabilities necessary to take care of the environment, hence reducing the harmful effects associated with environmental degradation (Konopnicki 2009). Consequently, education is a sure way of ensuring a sustainable future.
This paper has demonstrated the fundamental importance of conserving the environment and investing in education to ensure a sustainable future. Although these are not the only issues that are needed to ensure a sustainable future, they are nevertheless at the core of guaranteeing our existence as well as that of future generations. As such, all stakeholders need to come up with ways and strategies that could be used to ensure that these issues are integrated into the current social, political, economic, and environmental policies with the view to ensuring a sustainable future.
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