The definition of culture includes such things as values, beliefs and morality. However, we know that different groups, even within the same society as well as those from different societies have different cultures and see resources in different ways. Whose values, beliefs and mortality should decide what use we make of resources. Sustainable Development The society and culture we live in often influences or dictates the way in which we perceive what a resource is and the method or rate of use.
Immense disparities exist between affluent western societies that consume a vast amount of resources and more conservative societies like many native tribes, which believe in resource exploitation just to meet needs and where wastage is taboo. While the level of “development” as perceived by western society is directly proportionate to the consumption of resources per capita, if everyone in the world were to consume resources as Americans do, exhaustion would rapidly occur. Provision for future generations must be made, and our use of resources ought to reflect this, while maintaining a reasonable standard of living.
In some societies, resources we often take for granted are considered incalculable. For example, the use of water to wash hands in certain parts of the world is highly frowned upon as it is seen as wastage. In other cultures even though resources are available, their beliefs prevent overexploitation of a resource and forbid wastage of any kind. An example would be the Yanomamis in the Amazon Rainforest who would not even waste human bones; they are burned and eaten with bananas. While such a society would undoubtedly provision for future generations, its imposition on western cultures would be rather unsuccessful.
Western cultures believe in exploitation of resources to meet the needs of those who can afford it. While it has allowed the population to maintain a high level of living, its effects have been detrimental towards the provider of the resources; the earth. In post-industrialized countries, some parries and forests are no more, coasts and lakes altered, animals faced with extinction. While many realize the need to provision for future generations, few are willing to compromise their standard of living for this cause.
Furthermore, implementation of practices as extreme as in the Yanomamis is simply not feasible in large urban centers. What was undoubtedly required was a way to maintain a reasonable standard of living, yet ensure provision for future generations. Such development was hailed as being sustainable development. Despite being hailed as an oxymoron by some, in idea conditions, wastage would be tapered while development would still occur; a hybrid of the conservative Yanomami and need-based western cultures.
For sustainable development, recycling and improved energy efficiency and all round conservation must be improved. Improvements in technology have facilitated for the realization of this goal. Paper and metal recycling can salvage a good percentage of the original materials, with less energy use. New hybrid vehicles are unobtrusive yet consume 50% less fuel than traditional vehicles. Methods to conserve and even recycle water are available. However, sustainable development depends on the population adopting these new methods.
The benefits of reclaiming 99% of original materials in paper products is negated if only 50% of used paper products originally used finds its way to recycling bins. It is difficult to find exact views or beliefs that can be imposed upon the entire population. Nevertheless it is imperative to provision for future generations. Although to ask western societies to live, as the Yanomamis would not be welcomed warmly, the adoption of some of their attitudes of conservation would not only be reasonable, but would also be required to ensure sustainable development.