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Huong (Kathy) Pham

Ben Franklin Institute

George Mason U 2010
21 June 2010

Advanced Research Report: The Conflict within Sustainable Development

I. Perspectives Dictate What Aspect of Sustainable Development is Most Important

Sustainable development is the process of creating a community that serves and meets its
inhabitants' needs for living while utilizing available resources. Not economic development,
social development, nor environmental protection is more important than the other sectors, but
the decision of what to focus on tends to shift depending on the viewpoint expressed.
Ideally, humans would not have to give much thought about their surroundings and live in
ignorant bliss about their actions' effects on the environment, but sustainable development
emerges as one of the most frequently discussed concerns of this era, especially now that we are
more aware about our personal obligations in reducing our carbon footprint and promoting
social rights internationally. It is a conflict that involves nature, man and balance while mankind
advances through the technology age and expands the cities. In California, water conservation is
a hot topic because drought seasons further the depletion of water when there is already a
shortage in the southern part of the state. In earlier years, state funded water projects aqueduct
water from Northern California to the South, but as a result, the many water conservation
projects and watersheds leaves Southern California heavily reliant on Northern California. In this
case, Californian legislators are concerned about the environmental protection and social
development part of sustainable development.
However, not all world regions see the problem the way my home state does nor do they
struggle with the same issues. California is a state with the US, and is a part of the larger world.
Internationally, there are areas which are grossly underdeveloped when compared to the urban
life to which so many of us young people have adapted. For those people, they trying to escape
the vicious cycle of over-importing manufactured goods while under-exporting. Their more
immediate goal is advance their economy, and hopefully raise the standard of living, so they
strive to develop even though they may potentially compromise environmental preservation1.

II. International Idealism against Complex Implications of Sustainable Development

In the last decade, approximately 189 nations gathered to discuss the world's future at the
Millennium Summit held at New York City United Nations Headquarters. At the conference, all
member states agreed on a set of objectives they aspire to meet by 2015; these came to be known
as the Millennium Development Goals. The Goals range from alleviating poverty, ending world
hunger, improving maternal health to promoting universal education. Considering the massive
and diverse ambitions in the goals, the cooperation of all nations is crucial. Earlier this year,
when I was composing an essay on how the United States could promote sustainable
development in other countries, I had to consider Millennium Development Goal 8. MDG 8
affords UN member states the hope that we can achieve a global partnership for development.
For this, I had to consider the implications on why the US should care about undeveloped nations
and how this aligns to national interest, but simply put, the reason for concern is the increasing

1 Preservation is defined here as the act of maintaining nature, while conservation is the act of rationing limited
resources for later use.
interconnectivity amongst all countries.
Despite good intentions, the idea of sustainable development in every nation involves
conflicted interests. As a young child, I believed in uniform equality being blissfully unaware of
Marxist-Leninist theory, but as I grew older I saw a complicated face being imposed before my
solutions to the world's problems. I found the impossibility of absolute equality being washed
away by human desires and aspirations to raise oneself by his own bootstraps. In addition, I
discovered the seemingly opposing forces of industrialization versus agriculture and social
versus economic development. Target B on MDG 8 states that states should address the special
needs of the least developed countries, but the challenge of reducing these nation's dependency
might entail upsetting the current system of trade and exchange. Although imperialism has been
declared dead following World War II, stories of big industrialized beneficiaries exploiting the
people within underdeveloped areas continue to existtravelling in dark corridors of modern
history, but practically invisible in all but small independent media stations.

III. Engaging the Social/Environmental Aspect of Sustainable Development

My peers think of recycling, keeping the world litter-free, and conserving electricity and
fuel when they hear of the term sustainable development, and their idea of it reflects on how
the environment is an emphasized part of sustainable development from where I live. When
asked What types of environmental protection programs are common in your country?, I can
think of an abundance of federal and private initiatives, but the first that comes into mind is the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA writes regulations concerning human health
and the environment while reviewing legislation involving air quality, energy usage, land
preservation, endangered species protection and other related matters. Within most US states, a
Department of Environmental Protection analyses and regulates laws at the state level. And
through partnerships with public programs, the private industry involves individuals with
environmental protection as well. We have national parks preserving nature and privately-owned
zoos which also serve as conservation ranches for endangered animals and plants.
In prosperous nations, such as the United States, there is a combination of ignorance and
slight unwillingness to deliver foreign social aid in favor of financial help, but efforts to tackle
the social component of sustainable development are active nevertheless. Under President John F
Kennedy, the Peace Corps was created in March 1961; the program encouraged college students
and professionals to immerse themselves in a new culture and alleviate the poor conditions often
associated with underdevelopment. The mission of the Peace Corps is idealistic at times, but it is
one I would like to pursue in the future. Like a thorn ingrained on the side of a bicycle wheel, the
matter of international underdevelopment must be delicately addressed before the problem
causes larger consequences. In the US, I see that the environmental and economic component of
sustainable development are covered more extensively but social development, for foreign
nations as well as my own, may be our weak point, although I know that each component helps
address the next.


California Department of Water Resources. Web. 12 June 2010. <>.

"United Nations Millennium Development Goals." Welcome to the United Nations: It's Your
World. Web. 12 June 2010. <>.