The main issues of our time are the detrimental effects of pollution upon the environment and the depletion of the world’s natural resources. The first step towards resolving these issues is to develop a consensus of opinion regarding the precise definitions of environmental jargon such as ‘ecopolitics’ and ‘sustainable development’. Contention regarding the intended meanings of these words can lead to confusion and can be detrimental to the effective collaboration that is required in order to provide a solution. It can also result in nations applying convenient meanings to terms in order to pursue selfish agendas.
It is arguable that the main issues of our time relate to sustainable development and the field of ecopolitics. However, in order to identify what these issues are, it is essential to have a clear definition of what constitutes sustainable development and what ecopolitics encompasses. This essay will examine both the definitions of these terms and what needs to be done in order to solve the world from itself. A consensus of opinion regarding the nature of ecopolitics and precisely what constitutes sustainable development amongst academics and policymakers is the first step towards mitigating the risks that could potentially lead to the destruction of the planet within the not-so-distant future.
Nepal (2004, p. 606) defines ecopolitics as the study of political matters according to a perspective that holds that political judgments cannot be arrived at without ecological awareness and ecological awareness cannot be gained without political judgment. It holds that politics and ecology are inextricably intertwined with one another (Nepal, 2004, p. 606). However, this definition is not universally shared. Stoett (2012, p. 6) has stated that ecopolitics raises questions regarding whether or not sovereign states should exist, given the fact that they have proven to be incapable of handling major environmental problems of their own creation. It is arguable that there can be no politics without the existence of sovereign states. Therefore, this directly contradicts the notion that ecological awareness is dependent upon political judgment.
The main issues that threaten mankind’s existence are pollution and the depletion of the world’s resources. Damage to the ozone layer and a deficit of the fundamental resources that are required for survival both have the potential to lead to the extinction of humanity. In for ecopolitical academics and policymakers to prevent this from happening, it is first essential for them to firmly establish the nature of their discipline. Ecopolitics cannot be used to solve a problem if there is no clear consensus regarding the nature of this area of study.
Stoett (2012, p. 31) has claimed that organizations that were established to protect the environment can often facilitate its destruction. He provided the example of GEF. Despite being created for the promotion of sustainable development, this organization sometimes implements projects that produce damaging results. Another example is REDD+, a United Nations forestry funding mechanism that has received similar criticism (Stoett, 2012, p. 31).
It is arguable that sustainable development faces a similar dilemma to ecopolitics; there is no consensus regarding how to define it and what deviates from its principles. This leaves its definition open to manipulation and means that organizations that purport to be attempting to bring it about are actually seeking to further the agendas of various different governments. ‘Sustainable development’ is generally held to mean economic development implemented without depleting natural resources. However, precisely what development of this nature consists of is open to interpretation, which means that there are ample opportunities for unscrupulous bodies to exploit this ambiguity.
In order to prevent the world’s resources from being completely used up, a binding definition that dictates which practices abide by the principles of sustainable development and which practices go against it needs to be created. This will minimize the chances of the definition being bent in order to suit either the needs of a specific country or the requirements of big business. It will safeguard against the context of the term being stretched to justify non-sustainable practices being implemented.
It has been argued that the first step towards major global changes with regards to the protection of the ecosystem is to ensure that everybody is reading from the same page when it comes to the meanings that are applied to the terms that are utilized when discussing which actions should be implemented (Drivers of Change in Ecosystems and Their Services, n.d.). This applies to both sustainable development and ecopolitics. No solution can be reached if all of the people who influence the way in which the issue is dealt with attach different meanings to the same pieces of terminology. This will not only result in confusion but it will also result in meanings being deliberately applied that are beneficial to one party or another.
Even when it comes to supposedly neutral forces, such as environmental organizations, they often have hidden agendas, for example an organization that is established in the United States might be subconsciously biased towards courses of action that benefit the U.S.A. This is why agreement of meaning is such an important issue. Subtle connotations of language can make a huge difference when it comes to manipulating the way in which an issue is handled.
Alterations to the ecosystem occur at three different organizational levels. The first involves small groups and individuals at a local level, the second entails private and public decision-makers at national, provincial and municipal levels, and the third entails multilateral agreements and international conventions at global level (Drivers of Change in Ecosystems and Their Services, n.d.). It is arguable that it would be impossible for all of the groups and organizations that are involved in the first and second organizational levels to come to a consensus regarding the definitions that are used when tackling the issue of sustainable development. However, the entire purpose of global level discussions on this issue is to pool together opinions and reach a compromise. Therefore, this is clearly the level at which a consensus should be reached.
In conclusion, in order to protect mankind from the effects of pollution and the depletion of the world’s resources, it is first necessary for global organizations to come together and establish precise definitions of the terminology that is used when following environmental agendas. This will facilitate effective collaboration. It will prevent the meaning of ecopolitics and sustainable development from being distorted so that organizations or nations can pursue their own agendas at the expense of the natural environment.