Health Ecology: Health, Culture, and Human-Environment Interaction

By Morteza Honari; Thomas Boleyn | Go to book overview
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Health through sustainable development

A potential planning contribution

Jerzy Kozlowski and Greg Hill

Defining sustainable development

Sustainable development has recently become one of those magic terms used by almost everybody though not necessarily in a proper way or in the right context. Some people believe the concept to be a sort of 'philosopher's stone' which will solve all our problems. Others tend to be suspicious as to whether it really does mean anything.

To address these doubts some basic concepts of a new 'development philosophy' must first be discussed as they have opened up new horizons for the future of our planet. It has been intimated, for instance, that development need not necessarily be equated with growth. The two terms are not synonymous although often, and wrongly, they are used interchangeably. Development means the realisation of specific social and economic goals which may call for a stabilisation, increase, reduction, change of quality or even removal of existing uses, buildings or other elements, while simultaneously (but not inevitably) calling for the creation of new uses, buildings or elements. It must be noted that in each case development should lead to progress, expressed primarily by welfare improvements in the communities involved, and that it will occur through specific changes (Kozlowski, 1986; Zarsky, 1990). Such improvements do not necessarily result from growth itself. Therefore, a no-growth situation does not mean that there is no development. So long as there is the need for progress there will be the need for development and, in turn, the need to decide where and how this development is to take place so that the cost of it can be minimised and the benefits maximised. Here, cost needs to take on a broad meaning, that is, not only economic but also ecological and social. As this cost is, among others, strongly influenced by location, scale, kind and timing of development it is imperative that their consequences on the environment and on the human communities involved will always be established early in the decision making processes.

The obvious urgency for a new statement of a 'true' (sustainable) national income is addressed by the recently launched, Strategy for Sustainable Living which defines it as:

Net National Product (Gross National Product minus depreciation of human-made capital) plus increases in natural assets minus depreciation of natural


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Health Ecology: Health, Culture, and Human-Environment Interaction


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