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The very word “development” implies growth, progress, and betterment. In some quarters, however, it is equated with degradation, pollution, and depletion. On the whole, development brings economic opportunities, jobs, and investment. Who does not wish to see improvements in their quality of life? At the same time, like medicines formulated to kill infections, development can also have side effects that cause as many problems as development solves. Without careful planning and long-range vision, advancement can sow the seeds of its demise in terms of environmental well-being, public health, and economic prosperity. To think comprehensively about development with an eye on the long term is to prioritize sustainability.

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Food and Agriculture

International groups like the United Nations contend that the elimination of poverty must be a primary goal of global development. At its most cruel, poverty brings about starvation. To combat this prospect, development agencies seek to set up subsistence agriculture in deprived areas. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization fosters agricultural development in hunger-ridden sections of countries like Chad and Nigeria. Yet, it maintains an eye on the future and promotes sustainable farming in places like Uganda, where food shortages are not as severe. Growing crops and grains that yield higher volumes and incomes—with minor damage to soil and groundwater—is one way Ugandans practice sustainability.

Health and Medicine

Obtaining optimal nutrition is part and parcel of good health and long life. Yet, development goes well beyond food provision. Locating hospitals and outpatient clinics in underserved areas, educating poor communities about hygiene and disease prevention, and making access to vital medicines and devices all work together to spur robust health and longevity. As the population improves in strength and fitness, the potential for thriving intellectually and economically is likewise enhanced. Again, though, there is a flip side to such investment: increased infectious medical waste and pharmaceutical toxins. Sustainability mandates that practitioners discover safer and cleaner ways of disposal. To this end, the Coalition for Sustainable Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices is cooperating with Johnson & Johnson and the U.K. National Health Service to review avenues of healthcare delivery and formulate more ecologically friendly procedures. mosses

Manufacturing and Mobility

Developing an industry takes time, knowledge, and a good deal of effort. Experts agree: it is worth it. Manufacturing and industry provide under-performing countries with the capacity to compete internationally. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, manufacturing jobs pay better; they reward innovation more consistently than service jobs; they more frequently compensate employees for educational advancement. Governments and non-governmental organizations pour financial investment into infrastructure (e.g., roads and utilities) to enable production and move goods more efficiently. In so doing, however, they might be unaware of habitat destruction, human and environmental exposure to hazardous materials, and displacement of poor settlements. Sustainability bears in mind renewable energy resources, environmental impact (as with a state of Oregon water project), and equitable access.

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