The Link Between Environmental Sustainability and Economic Sustainability
More than just a fashionable talking point, sustainability has very real implications for the future. In both an environmental and economic sense, when something is sustainable—whether it is energy or enterprise—it means that it can last. In order for a society to function healthily, its many elements need to be sustainable, otherwise it will use up its resources, consuming more than it produces. That is an equation that will break down after time. Sometimes, though, economic concerns do not meld well with environmental ones, leading to a conflict of interest. There is, however, a link between sustainable environmental practices and a sustainable economy. Sustainable energy is that link.
Society and Energy
Society functions when a large number of people agree on a particular set of rules to live by. These rules are internalized after time and become habits. Societies also need energy supplies to power their economies. Thus, habitual energy use becomes one of the characteristics of a society. It so happens that the energy most modern industrial nations rely upon comes from fossil fuels which have been shown to be finite. This equation is not sustainable. As more and more nations industrialize, there is a growing demand for energy supplies. Since they are limited, though, there will not be enough to go around. Wars, among other things, are sometimes the direct result of such scarcity.
Because society needs energy, it is tasked with figuring out how to supply that energy in a way that can be sustained over the long run. Alternative energy sources have become, for this reason, not merely desirable but necessary for the future viability of society.
Society and Environment
As societies and economies grow, they expand, using more environmental resources as they do. Again, there is a limit to how far they can expand because land and energy supplies are limited. If they refuse to change their habits, they will ultimately fail. For this reason, societies must consider the environmental impact they make upon their region and the earth as a whole. On the one hand, they must expand to provide for their growing populations. On the other, they must care for the ecosystems that make their growth possible.
Environment and Energy
Where these two ideas converge is the theory of sustainable energy. Energy is what allows societies and economies to grow and flourish, but the environment is what allows them to exist at all. Striking a balance between energy use and environmental impact is a necessity. Just as clear-cutting rain forest to make grazing land for cattle to be consumed later is a poor choice in terms of oxygenation of the planet, topsoil erosion and destruction of plant and animal life, burning through all possible fossil fuels without regard to the environmental impact is folly as well. Making choices that consider both energy and environmental needs is the sensible alternative.
Sustainable, renewable energy sources, although they require fossil fuel inputs, makes more sense for the long term. Once the infrastructure was equipped with solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and other alternative power facilities, efficiency would rise and costs would go down. Besides that, because they are clean sources of energy, many of the destructive and unhealthy byproducts associated with fossil fuels would largely be eliminated. There will always be a certain amount of negative environmental impact. Human beings adapt the earth for their needs and will always do so. That impact, however, must be measured carefully while meeting the energy needs of people and economies. With sustainable energy, a link is made between environmental health and economic viability.