Thursday, February 21, 2019 | ePaper

Sustainable living standards

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Dr. M Abul Kashem Mozumder and Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque :
Living patterns, more or less durable coupled with long standing values and practices, may well be termed as sustainable livings. It refers to ' the level of wealth, comfort, material goods, and necessities available to a certain socioeconomic class in a certain geographic area, usually a country. The standard of living includes factors such as income, quality and availability of employment, class disparity, poverty rate, quality and affordability of housing, hours of work required to purchase necessities, gross domestic product, inflation rate, amount of leisure time every year, affordable (or free) access to quality healthcare, quality and availability of education, life expectancy, incidence of disease, cost of goods and services, infrastructure, national economic growth, economic and political stability, political and religious freedom, environmental quality, climate and safety. The standard of living is closely related to quality of life' .A measurement of   sustainable standard of living includes 'the quality of housing, medical care education, transportation, and entertainment opportunities. There is no objective, single measure of standard of living; rather, it is a value judgment made by individuals. However, to inject a degree of objectivity, sometimes annual per capita income figures are used to compare different standards of living.' Living standards that go beyond the basic minimum are sustainable only if consumption standards everywhere have regard for long-term sustainability. 'Yet many of us live beyond the world's ecological means, for instance in our patterns of energy use. Perceived needs are socially and culturally determined, and sustainable development requires the promotion of values that encourage consumption standards that are within the bounds of the ecological possible and to which all can reasonably aspire.  Meeting essential needs depends in part on achieving full growth potential, and sustainable development clearly requires economic growth in places where such needs are not being met. Elsewhere, it can be consistent with economic growth, provided the content of growth reflects the broad principles of sustainability and non-exploitation of others. But growth by itself is not enough. High levels of productive activity and widespread poverty can coexist, and can endanger the environment. Environmental and resource shortage militates against the potential for large increases in living standard. Of late, productivity increases, especially 'the change in output per unit of combined capital and labour, have slowed. Easy gains from outsourcing production to lower-cost jurisdictions or cutting back on staff have already been achieved.' Given increasing consumption level the impact on growth is limited.'
  'The state has the onerous responsibility of to creating   sustainable growth, for   higher per capita consumption The challenges the government now facing   are 'both old and new - improving crop yields; developing cheap, sustainable sources of energy; conserving oil, water and other scarce commodities; and using what we have more efficiently. Solving them will require an adjustment in expectations as we adapt to lower growth and lower living standards.' Hence sustainable development requires that societies meet human needs both by increasing productive potential and by ensuring equitable opportunities for all.  
An expansion in numbers can increase the pressure on resources and slow the rise in living standards in areas where deprivation is widespread. Though the issue is not merely one of population size but of the distribution of resources, sustainable development can only be pursued if demographic developments are in harmony with the changing productive potential of the ecosystem. A society may in many ways compromise its ability to meet the essential needs of its people in the future - by overexploiting resources, for example.
The direction of technological developments may solve some immediate problems but lead to even greater ones. Large sections of the population may be marginalized by ill-considered development. Settled agriculture, the diversion of watercourses, the extraction of minerals, the emission of heat and noxious gases into the atmosphere, commercial forests, and genetic manipulation are all examples or human intervention in natural systems during the course of development.
Until recently, such interventions were small in scale and their impact limited. Today's interventions are more drastic in scale and impact, and more threatening to life-support systems both locally and globally. This need not happen. At a minimum, sustainable development must not endanger the natural systems that support life on Earth: the atmosphere, the waters, the soils, and the living beings. Growth has no set limits in terms of population or resource use beyond which lies ecological disaster. Different limits hold for the use of energy, materials, water, and land. Many of these will manifest themselves in the form of rising costs and diminishing returns, rather than in the form of any sudden loss of a resource base. The accumulation of knowledge and the development of technology can enhance the carrying capacity of the resource base. But ultimate limits there are, and sustainability requires that long before these are reached, the world must ensure equitable access to the constrained resource and reorient technological efforts to relieve the presume. A communications gap has kept environmental, population, and development assistance groups apart for too long, preventing us from being aware of our common interest and realizing our combined power. Fortunately, the gap is closing. We now know that what unites us is vastly more important than what divides us. We recognize that poverty, environmental degradation, and population growth are inextricably related and that none of these fundamental problems can be successfully addressed in isolation. We will succeed or fail together. Arriving at a commonly accepted definition of 'sustainable development' remains a challenge for all the actors in the development process."
For least developed countries (LDCs) there is an yawning gap between expectation and achievement. Most people are living below poverty line. So standard of living is a distant dream. Developing and middle-income countries are better off. Poverty at the level of starvation is on the decline. There has been a visible positive change in living standard. Production with new technology tends to meet consumptive needs of the people.  

(Dr. M Abul Kashem Mozumder, Pro-VC, BUP and Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque, Retired Professor, Chittagong University).

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