Is Sustainable Development Paradoxical?

Is Sustainable Development Paradoxical? (Development and Sustainable Development)

People claim that sustainable development is possible and thriving; however, this paper argues that the physical practice of sustainable development barely exists in today’s reality and is actually a paradox. In order to argue this standpoint, the difference between development and sustainable development must be clear. Development is all the processes involved in progressing complex societies (economy, infrastructure, food supply etc.) Sustainable development is similar to development except it promises to sustain resources and maintain a similar quality of life for future generations. Notions of sustainable development also promise to combat poverty.

In today’s world, development thrives, but sustainable development is not as prevalent because the quality of life for future generations is declining due to extinction, pollution, and inflation. Sustainable development was most prevalent before the agricultural revolution 40,000 thousand years ago when nature supplied enough subsistence for all life on Earth. Back then, there was no risk of future generations receiving a reduced quality of life due to human causes because nature already supplied a static level of subsistence, an expected, repetitive amount of food. Extreme poverty may have existed 40,000 thousand years ago, but relative poverty did not quite exist in the same way it does today.

How could relative poverty exist if there were no wealthy people to compare other people to? The collection of mass, organized material wealth and income without some kind of complex development is impossible. Therefore, without development, relative poverty would not exist because poverty is measured relative to the collection of material wealth and income. In a world without the development of natural resources where people still hunt and gather, today’s idea of poverty would not exist because the development of natural resources has not yet occurred. This means that relative poverty was an effect caused by the collection and organization of material.

So in order to overcome poverty in today’s world, we must stop development and return to hunting and gathering practices because this way relative poverty would no longer exist. In other words, contemporary notions of sustainable development are a cluster of paradoxes because poverty will always exist if there is any form of complex development in existence as well.

How could the physical practice of sustainable development exist today if it is clear that life on Earth is reducing in quality? The air is getting more polluted every day, same with the water, the soil, and even our own bodies. Sustainable development promises what we cannot give, an equal future for our offspring. Unless development (complex societies) stops and is no longer practiced, sustainability will be nothing more than an idea rather than an actual reality because it is impossible for us to sustain a static quality of life, especially the quality of life in Canada today. The only practice which can %100 assure a static quality of life (sustainable development) is that which was practiced by hunters and gatherers before development of natural resources occurred, before relative poverty existed, and before the idea of sustainability was even a needed idea.