The word sustainability is usually associated
only with the environment and ecology. For
instance, when we speak about sustainable
cities, it is common to relate the term to a city where there is not a lot
of pollution and resources, such as energy and water, are used efficiently. Nevertheless,
sustainability has more approaches that are equally important and end up being
correlative; the most forgotten ones are the social and economic.
These approaches are crucial for achieving sustainability. To understand why let´s remember that sustainable development stands for “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Having examined the definition above, it is easier to understand that to develop correctly, the needs (which can be economic, social and environmental) of present and future generations have to be met.
Regarding social factors, there are many challenges in our contemporaneous world that keep us from achieving a proper development. One of the most serious is inequality. As a matter of fact, inequality is visible within and among countries every single day. In a global viewpoint, developing countries are not represented enough. In local angles, inequality is based on diverse characteristics; such as, income, sex, age, disability, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation religion, among others.
Inequality in a local and a global context has very negative effects for sustainability because it does not allow all people to grow, and develop correctly. In other words, it is impossible to achieve sustainable development if a part of the world population is excluded. How can the needs of the present (and future) generations be satisfied if part of the people in those generations are excluded? If only the people of a particular status have a decent life, then it is not sustainable because sustainability stands for all.
Nevertheless, how does inequality affect all of the agents that are not discriminated? And why should we care about equality? The answer to this questions is simple: We all live in an interconnected world. The inequality that may be happening in another state, country or continent will end up affecting all of us directly. Some examples are seen with the relation that inequality has with economic growth and climate change.
About economy, it is possible to state that the OECD analyzed in a study that the income inequality had a negative correlation with the economic growth. “The 3 Gini point rise in inequality that was the average for OECD states over the last 20 years meant 0.35 percent less economic growth” (Sherman, 2014). Furthermore, the pollution is also related to inequalities. To illustrate, “Particulate air pollution is higher in the poorest 20% of neighbourhoods in the UK.” (Bennett, 2015) To sum up, inequality affects us all, whether we are part of the population facing inequality or we are not. Therefore, it is important to take actions to reduce inequality within and among countries, as the SDG #10 states it.
Some viable solution would involve, ensuring that developing countries are better represented in decision-making on global issues, develop and ask for equal policies in our local governments and narrow the gap between rich and poor by paying a decent living wage. Like these, there are many other solutions that we can fight for to reduce inequalities, and achieve sustainable development, since if we do not grow equally, we are not growing as we should.