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Difference Between Development and Sustainable Development

Human activities have collectively altered the earth’s ecosystems for years, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Humans impact the physical environment in many ways such as overpopulation, deforestation, pollution, plastic disposal, and many more. And these are only some of the ways humans are impacting the environment. Such changes have had a severe impact on earth’s ecology in the forms of natural disasters, climate change, poor air quality, to name a few. You can see the signs of environment deterioration across the continents. We need a new approach to deal with such things. Sustainable development offers a major chance. All our problems will be solved if we can make the world more sustainable and a better place.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is a balanced approach to the economic development of a country that meets their present needs without jeopardizing the ability of the future generations to meet their needs. Sustainable development means to achieve a better and more sustainable future where everyone can live peacefully while utilizing resources more efficiently keeping the immediate and future well-being of the planet earth in mind. There are many things that affect the future livelihoods; things like climate change, global warming, rising sea levels, natural disasters, etc. Perhaps at this time of uncertainty no subject requires more attention than global sustainable development, encompassing the global fulfillment of basic human needs and the effective utilization of common resources. It is based on three primary goals: economic growth, social progress, and environment protection.


The conventional development approach is a stark contrast to the sustainable development approach and sees development as simply modernization of the world along Western lines. The conventional model means adoption of less resource intensive lifestyles with no regards to the well being of the planet earth and the people living in it. It identifies development with economic growth or increasing the GNP (Gross National Product). This model of development sees modernization closely tied to the promotion of individual growth and self advancement. According to this model, environmental deterioration is an inevitable consequence of development. It is based on the acceptance of a trade-off between economic development and environmental protection. Hence, a new development model has emerged to replace the conventional development paradigm.

Difference between Development and Sustainable Development


– Sustainable development means maintaining development over time. The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) defined it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are three pillars of sustainable development: environmental, economic, and social. Conventional development simplifies development by seeing it as global modernization along the Western lines and modeled after the example of industrialized, developed countries.


– Sustainable development is based on three primary goals: economic growth, social progress, and environment protection. The idea is to achieve a better and more sustainable future keeping the immediate and future well-being of the planet in mind. The conventional model of development sees modernization closely tied to the promotion of individual growth and self advancement. And in order to be modernized, a society has to become more technically sophisticated and urbanized.

Resource Utilization

– Sustainable development emphasizes on effective and efficient utilization of resources that aims to meet the needs of current and future generations while also protecting the environment. The best examples of sustainable use of resources are solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, and more. Traditional development may involve over exploitation of resources directed towards improving the quality of life of present generations and no strict regards to environmental protection.

Development vs. Sustainable Development: Comparison Chart


Sustainable development is a variation of the traditional development model and the term was officially defined in 1987 as part of the preparations of the Rio Earth Summit. Sustainable development means growth must be accomplished at the crossroads of economic goals, social responsibility, and environmental protection. It means upgrading production tools to use less energy and water is good for the environment. Sustainability means to support a process over the long term. The conventional approach relies on short-term solutions with no regards to future safety and concerns. 

What is the relation between development and sustainable development?

Sustainable development is everlasting development that ensures all the present needs are fulfilled without compromising the needs of future generations. Human resources are the basic condition of sustainable development focusing on conservation and reasonable usage.

What is the difference between sustainable and non sustainable development?

Sustainable means anything that can be maintained indefinitely whereas non-sustainable refers to development at the expense of future generations. Practices that are not sustainable in the long term are called non-sustainable. 

What is the main difference between economic development and sustainable development?

Economic development is the creation of wealth from which the economic well-being and quality of life for a community is improved. Sustainable development means promoting prosperity while protecting the environment over the long term.

What defines development?

The traditional development approach measures development on the scale of global modernization, industrialization, economic growth, etc. Conformity to social rules remains the pillar of the conventional model.

What is an example of sustainable development?

Solar energy is a great example of sustainable development as it harnesses radiation from the sun directly or indirectly for human use like electricity generation.

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References :

[0]Hess, Peter N. Economic Growth and Sustainable Development. England, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2016. Print

[1]Roorda, Niko. Fundamentals of Sustainable Development. Oxfordshire, United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis, 2017. Print

[2]Elliott, Jennifer. An Introduction to Sustainable Development. England, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2016. Print

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