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13.4: Sustainable Development

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Is there another way?

Visibility in Beijing is sometimes so bad that the airport must be closed due to smog. In their rush to develop, many nations are making the same mistakes that the developed nations have already made. Can everyone find a more sustainable path?

Sustainable Development

A topic generating a great deal of discussion these days is sustainable development. The goals of sustainable development are to:

  • help people out of poverty.
  • protect the environment.
  • use resources no faster than the rate at which they are regenerated.

One of the most important steps to achieving a more sustainable future is to reduce human population growth. This has been happening in recent years. Studies have shown that the birth rate decreases as women become educated, because educated women tend to have fewer, and healthier, children.

Science can be an important part of sustainable development. When scientists understand how Earth’s natural systems work, they can recognize how people are impacting them. Scientists can work to develop technologies that can be used to solve problems wisely. An example of a practice that can aid sustainable development is fish farming, as long as it is done in environmentally sound ways. Engineers can develop cleaner energy sources to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Citizens can change their behavior to reduce the impact they have on the planet by demanding products that are produced sustainably. When forests are logged, new trees should be planted. Mining should be done so that the landscape is not destroyed. People can consume less and think more about the impacts of what they do consume.

And what of the waste products of society? Will producing all that we need to keep the population growing result in a planet so polluted that the quality of life will be greatly diminished (Figure above)? Will warming temperatures cause problems for human populations? The only answer to all of these questions is, time will tell.


  • Sustainable development tries to bring people up to certain minimum living conditions without doing further damage to the environment.
  • To develop sustainably, the human population must stabilize.
  • Resources must be developed and used consciously and in environmentally sound ways.


Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.


1. Explain sustainable development.

2. How can we achieve sustainable development?

3. What are renewable energy sources?

4. What are fossil fuels?

5. Why didn't the United States sign the Kyoto treaty?

6. List examples of renewable energy sources.

7. What can we do to reduce our carbon footprint?

8, How can we reduce the demand for fossil fuels?


1. Why does the status of women help decrease population growth?

2. What is sustainable development? Do you think that it be achieved in your lifetime?

3. How can environmental protections be enacted and people be helped out of poverty at the same time? Are those goals conflicting?

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sustainable development Economic development that helps people out of poverty, use resources at a rate at which they can be replaced, and protects the environment.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
Last Modified:
Sep 11, 2016
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