What is the correlation between these two terms?
To begin with, what does sustainability mean?
As per the oxford dictionary, sustainability is the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
Though we have made it synonymous to sustainability of environment and planet, sustainability could be for anything. Be it for the environment, health, resources or even money.
Even if we consider it as sustainability towards the environment, we need to do a lot more than just ‘sustain’ our current status of the environment. We are required to revive it to a level first and then we may talk about sustaining that level.
One may argue that all the technologies present today are for the same purpose. Solar panels, green buildings, eco-friendly products, etc.
But at a closer look, how green are these Green Technologies? The energy required in the lifecycle of these technologies – extraction to disposal, has been proved to be much more than what they save/generate.
So are these technologies actually benefiting the environment:
- The water is still polluted from the factories manufacturing these green technologies and also from the eco-friendly products (because they are human friendly, not so much eco-friendly)
- The mining continues to extract minerals and raw ingredients for these green technologies
- The dumping yards continue to grow because we don’t know how to dispose of our green technologies, and so on and so forth.
Therefore, the question is, if the environment is not getting positively impacted through our sustainability measures, then why do we continue with them?
The obvious answer is business. In today’s day and age, where money and power supersede relations and humanity, the environment may not look like such a big cost to pay.
But the non-obvious answer could be, our own survival, as a race/species.
All the Green technologies seem cleaner for humans, not environment:
- Water harvesting – so we don’t fall short of water in households
- Bio gas – so we don’t fall short of fuel
- Solar panels – so we don’t fall short of electricity
- Eco-friendly products, that have less chemicals – so we don’t face side effects of the harsh chemicals.
Therefore, the sole purpose of these technologies seems to ‘sustain’ our modern lifestyles.
Now, let’s move on to health, what does health mean?
As per the oxford dictionary, health is the state of being free from illness or injury.
Again, it could be for anything, including the environment, though we have made it synonymous to human health.
And thus, as discussed above, all our measurements towards ‘sustainability’ are actually fueled by the sustenance of our own health and well-being. Which is why we may have people who are health conscious but not sensitive towards the environment.
Which brings us back to the first question, what is the correlation between the two terms – health and sustainability (in their present connotations)?
Your reaction would be that we just arrived at that, didn’t we?
“But the ‘sustainability’ we arrived at was of humans and not the environment. Remember we said that’s because the environment may not be such a big cost to pay? That’s because we don’t understand the relation between us and the environment. “
In reality the terms are not separate from each other, but go hand-in-hand. It is termed as ‘Elementalism’ in General Semantics. Where you separate two words that are actually inseparable, e.g., Mind and Body. Similarly, health and sustainability are one and the same thing. Humans are a part of the environment, not something separate from it. If the environment is impacted, the humans are eventually impacted as well. For e.g., the water which gets polluted reaches back to us in some form or the other, creating the various water-borne diseases.
To say that in brief, they are just two sides of the same coin – the way we treat nature is the way we are treating ourselves too.
Also, whether you realise it or not, Mother Earth doesn’t need us to take care of her, she knows well how to keep herself healthy. It’s us humans who need her to take care of us. Therefore, we must take the two terms together and work on ‘true sustainability’, if not for the environment’s sake, then for our own survival.
Because if we don’t, the day Nature feels we have overstepped, the human race will be wiped off overnight and the planet will be healed and ‘sustainable’ in its true sense.