“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. From the World Commission on Environment and Development, The Brundtland Commission report on Our Common Future, 1987.
But what does this mean in a South African context? What are the needs of the
present? When you start to consider this, it gets slightly more complicated for me.
For example, for a business to be profitable they need cheap labour, and the least amount of labour force that can output as much as possible in a short time. This directly conflicts with a workers need for a liveable wage to support his or her family and who often accepts the minimum wage because they would rather earn a small income than nothing at all.
Consider a family who needs to burn wood to keep warm, boil contaminated water and cook their food versus cutting down trees and making wood fires that send harmful pollutants into the air. Does the environment even come into play here for people with such basic needs?
Purchasing cheap imports that travelled thousands of miles because that’s all you can afford compared to buying a local product, made in your own city that costs more and buy supporting local business, you can contribute to more local employment. At a recent focus group in Johannesburg, event organisers voted for imported delegate bags instead of locally made ones, simply from a cost perspective. *
The examples are endless and one wonders whose needs should be met? City dwellers who rely on electricity, cell phone towers, petrol etc or those living in underprivileged or rural areas, the
environment or big business that provides much needed employment. Our generation or the next..
What happens to the environment in the long term if a large number of the population
in South Africa cannot afford to meet their most basic needs today? It all
sounds overwhelming and I don’t know the answer, it begs the question how do you strike a balance? Can we all simply just do what we can with what we have and hope for the best?
*Will address in another post.