Human activities have caused a lot of damage to the environment. We have polluted the land, the atmosphere and the oceans, lakes and rivers. We have damaged habitats and been the fundamental cause of the extinction of many plants and animals; we have squandered non-renewable resources and degraded natural capital. All of which have had devastating consequences.
- A total of 24,000 deaths and a further 24,000 hospital admissions in Britain are caused or accelerated each year by air pollution (Source: Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants).
- In the United Kingdom, 100 species have become extinct over the last 100 years (Source: Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs).
- Every year we use as much oil as it takes nature a million years to make (Source: Friends of the Earth).
These may seem like distant issues, yet they affect us all. The environment is our life support system; we depend on the environment for air, water, food, raw materials and fuel to make energy and medicines, so a degraded environment is bound to have a negative effect on our quality of life. Sustainable development tries to find a balance between protecting the environment and our quality of life.
Sustainable development is "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This really means all human advances need to consider:
- social progress
- protection of the environment
- prudent use of resources
- high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
The concept of sustainable development first came to prominence in the early 1990s, when, at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, over 170 governments from around the world agreed to work towards the common goal of sustainable development. This agreement became known as Agenda 21. As part of this agreement, every local authority had to develop a Local Agenda 21 Strategy by 1996, detailing how they would take action to:
- reduce use of energy and raw materials
- reduce pollution and waste
- protect fragile ecosystems
- share wealth, opportunities and responsibilities globally, nationally and locally
In 2000, the the Local Government Act aimed to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being in each local authority area by making it a legal requirement for all local authorities to consider all aspects of sustainable development in all their activities. It also required local authorities to develop Local Strategic Partnerships and Community Plans. Consequently, Chesterfield Borough Council’s Local Agenda 21 Strategy became incorporated into the Community Strategy for Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire.