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In this essay I will discuss what sustainable development means? I will also discuss weak and strong approaches to sustainability and how this is related to sustainable development. Finally I will discuss how Isaac Construction in Christchurch has adopted sustainable development practices. In order to somewhat understand what sustainable development means, you must first separate the two words and view them both individually. Development and sustainability discussion:

Firstly, development can be seen as progress and growth which builds over time at both societal and individual levels. There are also three senses in which the word development is used. They are; a vision/measure, an historical process and lastly a deliberate effort for development (Thomas A. , 2000, p. 29). An example of this is when using economic development in the context of the three senses: a vision of economic wealth for a country, capitalism creating growth over time and lastly a development company that deliberately helps to create growth.

Most importantly though, development means reaching full human potential (Thomas. A. , 2000, p. 32-33). Sustainability can be more difficult to explain because the word has no consensual definition, much like concept words “liberty’’ and “justice” (Sustainability, Wikipedia). It is best to first consider the many meanings of the word sustain to help simplify things. A few examples of sustain meanings are; to support, to bear, to keep up or keep going (Sustain definition, Dictionary. com). With that in mind and when used in context with environmental and economic for example we get an idea of what sustainability means.

Environmental sustainability and economic sustainability for example both depend on the ecological carrying capacity, because sustainability was originally “associated with maintenance of environmental quality” (as cited in Bell, S. , & Morse, S. 1999, p. 6). “The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely” (as cited in Carrying capacity, Wikipedia, para. 1). Therefore as humans, sustainability can be seen as preserving resources and natural ecosystems while maintaining our population.

Simply put it, “sustainability is improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems” (as cited in Sustainability, Wikipedia, para. 7). One final aspect is over what time scale sustainability should occur? How many generations, just the present generation or 100 generations? The answer is that it all depends on the type of systems and also the spatial scale such as a small village, country or even the whole planet (Bell, S. , & Morse, S. 1999, p. 13 & 14). An example of this is a small fishing village.

They only need to maintain fish stock from generation to generation, but globally fish stocks need to be maintained over multiple generations so it is shared equally. Now we get a somewhat better understanding of what sustainable development means. From what I have already written, we get an idea that sustainable development is a system of growth and progress that is within the carry capacities of natural systems and is sustained over multiple generations. Still this meaning is vague and only encompasses environmental sustainability.

This view is seen as a strong approach to sustainable development. I will now discuss weak versus strong approaches, and then we will gain a full understanding of sustainable development. Main Discussion: There are two different thoughts of sustainable development. They are weak sustainability and strong sustainability . Weak sustainability is a human-centred, growth-orientated approach to economic development. With no consideration to people’s demands on Earths resources and that the resources are to be utilized only by humans (Open Polytechnic, 2009, p. 40).

Basically, weak sustainability only maintains natural and man-made capital stock for human consumption (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2002, p. 34). Strong sustainability as mentioned earlier in this essay is an environment-centred, balanced/sustained approach to the demands on Earths resources and for all human activities to be within the limitations of our natural eco-systems, and also to share those natural systems with other species (Phase2. org). In weak sustainability, Patterson states “manufactured capital can substitute for losses in natural capital” (p. 7), and also for that capital to be maintained from generation to generation so human society is economically sustainable (Patterson, M. , 2002, p. 17). From the strong sustainability point of view this is negative. The perspective of strong sustainability is for natural capital to be maintained, because you can’t produce manufactured capital without natural capital. Natural capital can perform many economic functions when it is maintained properly. Such as environmental eco-systems that support human life and the co-existence of other species.

Through strong sustainability natural capital when maintained over numerous generations, allows everyone over time to have equal access. This is difficult to do, being able to maintain natural capital over multiple generations. It is much easier to maintain total capital and manufactured stock. This is reflected in present day society, with declining natural stocks but increased manufactured stock through the help of technological innovations (Patterson, M. , 2002, p. 18). Technology is a very positive aspect of weak sustainability.

It creates economic/social development and sustains society economically with large capabilities for manufactured capital. It also helps to support the ever increasing human population. The problem with this as mentioned above is that technology can have a negative impact on strong sustainability and cause further unsustainable exploitation of natural capital if not used from a strong sustainability perspective. An example of the weak versus strong sustainability discussion is that of a wetland (natural capital).

A wetland under weak sustainability could be drained and turned to a housing sub division for manufactured capital. This is positive socially (creates new homes) and positive economically (creates jobs). Under strong sustainability, maintaining the wetland creates an eco-system for the co-existence of different species. For humans this can create jobs in the tourism industry (economic/social development). A wetland also helps to sustain a society through “flood control, disturbance buffering, nutrient cycling and water regulation” (as cited in Patterson, M. , 2002, p. 17).

From discussing weak versus strong sustainability above, we come to understand that sustainable development can be neither strong nor weak. To see sustainable development in terms of weak sustainability would jeopardize environmental development and maybe even social development. Finally our full understanding of sustainable development is realized. In order to have sustainable development you must incorporate all three important measures of development. That is social equity, economic prosperity and environmental quality. This is also known as the triple bottom line (Sustainable development, Wikipedia).

These three measures of development must be equal to each other. In other words you can’t have sustainable development without equal consideration of social, economic and environmental development. Sustainable development also needs to meet the needs of future generations. The most quoted explanation of sustainable development helps explain sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (as cited in W. C. E. D. , 1987, part 1, section 3).

Sustainable development balances improvements of lifestyles and well being with preserving natural resources and eco-systems over multiple generations. From discussing sustainable development above, we can now discuss how Isaac Construction practices sustainable development. Isaac Construction originally started off as a quarrying company for gravel in 1957, based just north of Christchurch airport. Lady Diana Isaac, co-founder of Isaac Construction started charitable trusts such as The Isaac Wildlife Trust, to help fund conversion of quarried land into sustainable environments.

This started in 1977, way beyond present thinking back then, when sustainable development was not even heard of. The quarrying side of Isaac Construction has positive effects on social and economic development by creating jobs and basic well being within the Christchurch region, but this has a negative impact environmentally. Quarrying creates very large sections of unusable land. Through the charitable trusts, this land over 50 years has been converted into Peacock Springs, a conservation park to help in the breeding of rare native species such as the black stilt.

There is also a continued expansion of the park over the next 50-100 years for native bush to be planted after the quarrying process and for some of the park to be open to the public for recreational activities. Isaac Construction encompasses social (jobs, well being), economic (growth, progress) and environmental (conservation) measures of sustainable development, all this being sustained over multiple generations. This extract helps to sum up how Isaac Construction practices sustainable development. “Crucial to its success is the ability to maintain the close relationship between commerce and conservation done with foresight and planning.

The Park will initially embrace an area of around 1200ha, building on the natural and rehabilitated landscape. Opportunities for the study and conservation of native flora and fauna will be harnessed and the Park will provide a unique and expansive open space and wildlife experience that will in part be available to the community” (Isaac Wildlife Trust, 2009, p. 10). Conclusion: To conclude, we finally understand the main question of this essay. What sustainable development means? Sustainable development is the equal consideration of social, economic and environmental development that is sustainable from present to future generations.

That’s why weak and strong approaches to sustainability do not work. There needs to be a balance between social, economic and environmental measures to be fair on the different structures of society, from present to future generations. Companies like Isaac Construction that practice sustainable development help humanity see that it is easily achievable, beneficial and positive. Therefore we as humans must encourage sustainable development on a global scale to help humanity to have a long and positive future on our small blue planet called Earth.


1. Patterson, M. 2002). What is sustainability? In Headline indicators for tracking progress to sustainability in New Zealand (pp. 8-23). Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of the environment.

2. Thomas, A. (2000). Meanings and views of development. In T. Allen & A. Thomas (Eds). Poverty and development into the 21st century (Rev. ed. , pp. 23-48). Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.

3. Sustainability. (n. d. ). Retrieved April 4, 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Sustainability.

4. Sustain definition. (n. d. ). Retrieved April 4, 2011, from Dictionary. com: http://dictionary. eference. com/browse/sustain.

5. Bell, S. , & Morse, S. (1999). Two roots of sustainability. In Sustainability indicators: Measuring the immeasurable (pp. 6-18). London, England: Earthscan.

6. Carrying capacity. (n. d). Retrieved April 5, 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Carrying_capacity.

7. The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (Rev. Jan. 2009). 72194 Sustainable development and New Zealand. Table 1. 2 (p. 40). Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

8. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. (2002). Creating our future. In Section 2: Setting the scene (sections 2. and 2. 2). Wellington, New Zealand.

9. What is strong sustainability? (n. d. ). Retrieved April 5, 2011, from Phase2: http://sites. google. com/site/strongsustainability/what-is-strong-sustainability.