It was the American historian, philosopher of technology and author Lewis Mumford who said that the natural environment should shape the nature of humankind. He believed that man’s basic needs—food, clean water and air, adequate living spaces, etc.—have to be respected so that humanity, as a whole, can thrive.
In a world of more than seven billion people and limited natural resources, sustainability has become a major issue—sustainability in terms of food, power or energy, natural resources, and so on. Only three percent of the world’s land surface is covered by urban areas, but around 55 percent of the world’s current population live in these areas. The megacities, where millions of people live, are major centers of consumption.
The development of an urban ecosystem plays an important part in the issue of sustainability. This interaction among humans and their urban environment has to achieve a certain balance so that the needs of both nature and man can be met.
While governments and businesses definitely have roles to play, the civil society—and that includes the family unit, mass media, and individuals, too—can create a huge impact as far as environment protection and resource management are concerned. People should not wait for others to do the work that they themselves can do.
Everything we do has an impact on the environment. It is important to keep this in mind and to understand that cooperation can result in more significant positive changes. We cannot underestimate the contribution a single person can make even just by making the slightest adjustment in behavior or consciousness.
Economic growth is necessary for development, but it is not enough. Also important are education, health, environmental sustainability, the protection of society’s weaker layers, etc. It is not right to take economic growth as the only parameter in measuring development. To do this may be dangerous for man and the earth itself. A more acceptable, holistic and lasting approach must be adopted sooner rather than later.
A society that prioritizes social and ecological well-being, not only focused on promoting consumption at all cost, can perhaps produce happier citizens and a cleaner environment. The degrowth concept is very close to this idea as it is all about the transformation of communities for environmental justice and the creation of a good life for everyone.
Going back to Mumford, he did write that “the physical design of cities and their economic functions are secondary to their relationship to the natural environment and to the spiritual values of the human community”. Many of his most significant ideas were written more than 50 years ago.
So all this is nothing new, but the implementation and action are a different matter altogether. And that’s why all sectors of society need to work together to build a balanced ecosystem founded on every individual’s conscious effort toward environmental sustainability.