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The Concept of Sustainability


How The Environment Is Affected By Over Consumption Of Natural Resources?

Sustainability as a concept involves three main aspects, ecological health, economic welfare and social equity.  It not only lays emphasis on the ethical commitment of the wellbeing of contemporary societies but also of the future generations. It suggests that in the process of making decisions, societies that have good quality life have a responsibility to ensure that contemporary, future and less well-off can meet their basic needs and have opportunities to enhance their lives. Communities are applying to plan urban areas, solve energy problems, develop green spaces, address waste disposal and reinvigorate local communities (DesJardins, 2007).

The concept sustainability has its foundation in the crisis of development. International development schemes have failed to improve the lives of impoverished people around the globe.  Sustainability remains inherently difficult to be achieved due to its complexity, and it is increasingly difficult to the maze of issues that face us (Sestini, 2012). Humanity faces a future with vast array of concerns including blowback effects from disposal of synthetic chemicals, potentially appalling consequences because of climate change, shortages of potable water, and depleted fisheries. In examining sustainability, the relationship between natural resources and consumption is an issue that has to be explored.

The increase in population and per capita consumption is challenging Earth’s carrying capacity. Most basic resources, land, energy, biota and water, are not unlimited in their supplies, and as human population and consumption increases, they are rapidly being depleted. Moreover, human-driven practices intended to satisfy people’s needs are increasingly reducing the capacity of the ecology to fulfill these needs.

The effects of over consumption of resources on the environment are invariably multiple, long-lasting, and unforeseeable. The results of these actions manifest after many year or centuries. The risks and costs of ecosystem disruptions are deferred to future generations. It is impossible to know the long-term effects due to the complexity of the web of life (Ayestarán, 2010).

Environmental impact is tied to affluence for societies and individuals.  As wealth and technology grow so does per capita resource usage. Greater opulence results in more consumption of food, energy and more garbage production (York, 2009). Thus people in wealthier regions consume more than those in poor sectors. Even within the same area, the consumption degree of a prosperous resident is more than poorer ones. Affluent people have greater ecological and economic footprints compared to deprived individuals.

Corporations largely influence environmental sustainability since they are the biggest consumers of natural resources. To achieve sustainability, they should, first, implement a policy that ensures yearly reductions of emissions synthetic, solid waste and substances from the Earth’s crust. Second, decrease dependence on resources extraction and instead use recycled materials. Third, introduce a review to help in reducing the non-renewable portion of the resources stream and maximize resource efficiency. Fourth, assess the life cycle of their products to provide a more comprehensive analysis of the impact of production decisions. Fifth, set effective restrictions on the use of substance from the Earth’s crust as well as their extraction (Baumgärtner and Quaas, 2010).

The Relationship Between Natural Resources and Consumption

People should recognize their responsibility to future generations, and they should not satisfy their immediate needs at the expense of future generations.  They should acknowledge and affirm an obligation to persons who remain incapable of actively expressing their interests (Liu et al., 2015). Their inability to take part in the process of making decisions should not negate the obligation to consider their rights and needs. The same applies to people’s responsibility to those separated from them by geographic, social and political boundaries.

Many people are unable to actively represent their views concerning decisions that most affect their lives owing to geo-political or social-economic reasons. They lack the necessary resources to ensure their opinions are heard and noted. Although such people are relatively powerless their rights to sustainable occupations that are not laden with disparate environmental threats remain intact (Kolk, 2008).

A major value in economics is efficiency which entails minimizing costs while maximizing profits.  Many organizations in a drive to increase productivity have mechanized their business activities and reduced the number of workers. As a result, there are high levels of unemployment and more workload for those doing the work. Further, high volumes of productivity consume natural resources and produce more waste.

Nature as capital is a reserve of resources that produces a constant supply of natural goods and services. Trees as assets, for instance, yield timber that is used in for paper products, energy conversion and lumber. Water as an asset provides fish for consumption and water for industrial uses and drinking needs.  Such natural stocks should be sustainably utilized to ensure indefinite production of valuable natural goods and services. However, overexploitation of a stock leads to its depletion since the nature resource is incapable of regenerating the stock at a fast rate. The natural income it generates – flow of services and goods – becomes exhausted. Further exploitation of the stock diminishes its natural capital. In the end, the exhaustion of natural resources leaves one neither capital nor proceeds. Future generations may face diminishing returns as a result of current generations depleting natural capital.

The predicament facing humanity is dire because of the massive ecological debt as a result of exhausting natural capital. Future generations will be enforced to settle this debt which is unfair as well as undemocratic. It is reasonable to suppose that future generations would not approve being laden with the reparation of a debt whose benefits they did not enjoy. Had they an opportunity to vote on the matter, they would not approve ecological debts (Krishna, Dangayach and Jainabc, 2011).

First, there are vast disproportions in per capita consumption of natural resources between different nations and world segments. People in affluent countries consume ten times more than inhabitants in developing countries.  In the present society, there is an unfair distribution of benefits and risks. These ethical concerns fall under the distributive justice theory. The theory asserts that the distribution of resources ought to be fair and correct. The distributive justice theory is also concerned with the fair distribution of merits and demerits including risks. Currently, the underprivileged and the powerless members of society are more disposed to environmental risks such as exposure to toxic material or high levels of pollution in their locality or work settings. Affluence tends to accrue at the higher levels of the socio-economic continuum, le risks accumulate at the lower levels (Biedenweg, Monroe and Oxarart, 2013).

Overconsumption of Resources and Its Effects on the Environment

Second, humanity owes the future societies a world that is not largely diminished of its life-supporting capacity.  Over exploitation of resource without regarding future generations also falls under the distributive theory. The theory posits that there should be a fair and correct distribution of resources between generations (Wright and Bennett, 2011). Surveying or consulting future generations as to their needs and wants is not possible, however, assumptions can be made. People can assume that they will need a meaningful income, physical security, decent housing, nutritious food, health, education and a life-supporting globe. Additionally, they will need to enjoy the scenic beauty as well the chance to develop culturally, technologically and scientifically (Crane and Matten, 2016).

Businesses that depend on nature for raw materials are flourishing since the materials are free.  The only costs organizations incur in purchasing the necessary machinery.  The two primary categories of natural resources are renewable and non-renewable resources. Renewable materials include timber to produce timber and furniture and agricultural products and fish which serve as food for people and livestock (Kibert et al., 2011. ). Agricultural related businesses are doing well since the materials they derive from nature are renewable.

Non-renewable resources include metal ores for manufacturing machinery, construction industry materials for constructing roads and houses and fossil fuels that provide energy. Companies are rapidly depleting these resources, and thus there is a need to consider using alternative raw materials. For instance, firms and people should utilize energy sources that are renewable wind and solar (Saltaji, 2013).

However, the rapidly growing demand for non-renewable resources has caused an unprecedented increase in resource value. Businesses which own the raw material deposits are profiting from this situation and are trading resources at higher prices. Regions with a relative scarcity of resources are negatively affected and have to pay high prices for the resources.

When organizations reach the peak of extraction of various resources, the materials will decrease, and their extraction will be restricted. Some materials will not be available since they will have been fully depleted. These will adversely affect businesses, and some will have to be closed due to unavailability of raw materials.

Resources should be used in efficiently and fairly for people around the world to meet their basic human needs. Humanity should consider the entire world and be efficient regarding how they use resources and manage waste to ensure sustainability. If some people have inadequate resources and on the other hand other persons have excess, it is imbalanced regarding meeting rudimentary human necessities. To achieve sustainability, people should share while striving to live using fewer resources. Also, improve the organizational and technical efficiency to facilitate equitable distribution of resources. Additionally, improving how people address the increase of human population plays a significant role in ensuring sustainability of natural resources (Krainer, 2011).

To ensure sustainability of ecological diversity, humans should avoid systematically destroying the habitat of other species. Biodiversity offers the basic ecological services that are needed to ensure sustainability of life on this sphere. The sustainability of society depends on the continuing ability of nature to renew resources and convert waste into useful resources. Therefore, humans should avoid taking more than can be replenished by the natural system (Manzini, 2006).

Environmental Impact Tied to Affluence

 Human activities such as mining metals and minerals and burning fossil fuels, should not transpire at a degree that causes the increase of harmful substances in the ecosphere. The problems that result from materials from the Earth’s crust accumulating in the ecology include contamination of ground and surface water, rise in greenhouse gases resulting to global climate change and increase in metal toxins (Meijboom and Brom, 2012). Therefore, society needs to implement programs for recycling mineral and metal and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Prime resources function independently, and each can be used to some extent to make up for the partial deficiency of one or more of the others. For instance, desert land can be irrigated for agricultural production. However, this is a viable strategy if surface or ground water is available, there is sufficient energy to pump the water, and if the soil is fertile enough to support crop growth and is suitable for irrigation.

The productiveness of nutrient deficient soil can be improved by great inputs of fossil fuel fertilizers. However, the practice increases reliance on finite fossil fuels. A more basic issue is that approximately 3000 years are required for the natural restructuring of the topsoil to 15 mm depth necessary for satisfactory agricultural production.

Although some innovative technologies and ecological management practices are improving the use of resources, there are limits to their functions. For instance, the availability of bigger nets, faster and larger ships, has not lead to rising in fish production. Similarly, obtainability and use of large, efficient saws do not result in the increase in forest production and regrowth.


The moral principles of sustainability do not aim to mere existence; to live sustainably entails enjoying and preserving the high quality and opulent diversity of life. In this respect, people’s responsibility to future generations involves exceeding the necessity of ensuring they meet their basic needs. Society’s responsibility is to preserve the opportunities and standards that are valued today. People ought to pass a legacy of a resilient, biologically diverse and life sustaining planet.


Ayestarán, I. ( 2010) 'Knowledge, responsibility and ethics of sustainability in view of the global change', Ramon Llull Journal of Applied Ethics, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 183-198.

Baumgärtner, S. and Quaas, M. ( 2010) 'What is sustainability economics?', Ecological Economics, vol. 69, no. 3, pp. 445-450.

Biedenweg, K., Monroe, M.C. and Oxarart, A. ( 2013) 'The importance of teaching ethics of sustainability. International ', Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, pp. 14(1), pp.6-14.

Crane, A. and Matten, D. (2016) Business ethics: Managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization, Oxford University Press.

DesJardins, J.R. (2007) Business, ethics, and the environment: Imagining a sustainable future , Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Kibert, C.J., Thiele, L., Peterson, A. and Monroe, M. (2011. ) The ethics of sustainability..

Kolk, A. ( 2008) 'Sustainability, accountability and corporate governance: exploring multinationals' reporting practices ', Business Strategy and the Environment, pp. 17(1), pp.1-15.

Krainer, L. (2011) Ethics and Sustainability, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG.

Krishna, A., Dangayach, G.S. and Jainabc, R. (2011) 'Business ethics: a sustainability approach', Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, no. 25, pp. 281-286.

Liu, J., Mooney, H., Hull, V., Davis, S.J., Gaskell, J., Hertel, T., Lubchenco, J., Seto, K.C., Gleick, P., Kremen, C. and Li, S. (2015) ' Sustainability. Systems integration for global sustainability', Science, vol. (6225), no. 1258832, p. 347.

Manzini, E. ( 2006) 'Design, ethics and sustainability. Guidelines for a Transition Phase' University of Art and Design Helsinki (June).

Meijboom, F.L. and Brom, F.W. (2012) ' Ethics and sustainability: Guest or guide? On sustainability as a moral ideal', Journal of agricultural and environmental ethics, pp. 25(2), pp.117-121.

Saltaji, I.M. (2013) ' CORPORATE GOVERNANCE RELATION WITH CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY', Internal Auditing & Risk Management, vol. 8, no. 2.

Sestini, F. (2012) ' Collective awareness platforms: engines for sustainability and ethics', IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 54-62.

Wright, N.S. and Bennett, H.. (2011) 'Business ethics, CSR, sustainability and the MBA ', Journal of Management & Organization, pp. 17(05), pp.641-655.

York, J.G. (2009) ' Pragmatic sustainability: translating environmental ethics into competitive advantage ', Journal of Business Ethics,pp, vol. 85, pp. 97-109.

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