‘Sustainable Development’ Explained
By: Henry Lamb
What could be bad about ‘sustainability’?
To ordinary people, the word sustainable is an adjective that means the activity the word describes can continue forever. For example, since biblical days, farmers practiced sustainable agriculture by leaving their fields fallow every seventh year. In early America, farmers knew that for agriculture to be sustainable, the same crop could not be planted in the same field year after year. Sustainable agriculture has always been practiced by successful farmers. Farmers who didn’t practice sustainable agriculture inevitably failed.
The United Nations has given the word sustainable a new definition. Introduced to the world in “Our Common Future,” the report of the 1987 U.N. Commission on Environment and Development, and further defined in the U.N.’s “Agenda 21” at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, the term “sustainable” was married to the term “development,” and a brand new concept entered the world. The term “sustainable development” means any activity that has economic impact, and is equitable, and has no negative environmental impact. All three elements are required to qualify as “sustainable development.”
There can be no development without economic impact, of course; nothing new here. “Equitable,” however, is a new requirement. Equitable means social justice, which means, as a beginning point, equal benefit from the earth’s resources. Progressives have expanded the definition to include such things as a right to housing, health care and a livable wage, but at the very least, equitable means redistribution of wealth from those who have earned it to those who have not. To meet this requirement of sustainable development, government must empower agents to take wealth from one segment of the population and give it to others.
To be sustainable, according to the U.N. definition, development must have no negative environmental impact. This requirement demands a monitor of development activity and a judgment made to determine whether the activity results in a negative environmental impact. This monitor and judge is necessarily some entity empowered by government. Development that fails to meet these requirements is, by definition, not sustainable. Development that meets these requirements is declared by government to be sustainable.
Therefore, sustainable development is government-approved development.
In the context of sustainable development, any activity government describes as sustainable must be a government-approved activity. Sustainable agriculture, despite the fact that agriculture has been practiced sustainably since biblical days, must now be government-approved to enjoy the sustainable label. Government has now applied the word sustainable to communities, which means that for a community to be sustainable it must be government-approved.
Proponents of sustainable development, inside and outside the government, downplay this fundamental element of sustainable development. Instead, they tout the benefits to the environment of sustainable programs that promote recycling, renewable energy, conservation and the like. And an unknowing public drinks the progressive Kool-Aid.
The term sustainable sounds quite reasonable to people who have no idea that the U.N., the federal government and most local governments have qualified and redefined the term to mean government-approved. In some cities and counties, when officials enter into an agreement with ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) to monitor carbon emissions, they have no idea that they are also agreeing to compliance with a much broader application of sustainable development policies. Elected officials in some local governments have no idea that the comprehensive plan presented by their planning commission is deeply rooted in the principles of sustainable development set forth in Agenda 21.
All too often, businesses are shamed into taking a public stand in support of sustainable development. Advertisements boast “going green” and “sustainability” with little or no understanding that what they are promoting is ultimately government approval of their every campaign, program and activity.
The requirement for government approval is the death of freedom. Put differently, freedom cannot exist where government approval is required. America is teetering on the brink of losing the freedom that made her a great nation. In pursuit of the deceitfully presented notion of sustainable development, America is unknowingly welcoming government to expand and impose its power to regulate virtually every human activity.
Sustainable development as defined in Agenda 21, regardless of how it is repackaged and resold, must be rejected at every level of government.
The purpose of government is not to redistribute wealth. The purpose of government is not to protect the environment. The purpose of government is to protect the inalienable rights of its citizens, and to defend those citizens from all enemies both foreign and domestic. When government fulfills this purpose, every person has an equal right to pursue personal happiness to the maximum extent of his abilities. No person is entitled to the wealth of another, regardless of Agenda 21 or any other U.N. declaration. Any person whose property or environment is damaged by another is entitled to recover those damages in court. This, too, is a legitimate function of government.
Activity that is, and is not, sustainable should be determined by nature, not by government. Sustainability is just the latest disguise government is using to shroud its incessant quest to control its citizens.