Development and Growth
Development is the process whereby human beings use their knowledge, understanding and capacity to improve the quality of the ecosystems with which they interact, including the other components of nature.
Development consists in the pursuit of values and beliefs necessary for life (e.g. equity and social inclusion, unity and diversity, democracy and justice, freedom and solidarity, environmental integrity and diversity) through norms and ways of acting.
The sharing of values, beliefs, norms and ways of acting is the essence of culture as a set of individual and collective choices (self-organization) that affect the conditions of belonging to a specific ecosystem (local citizenship).
The integration of different cultures, even those conflicting, is the essence of civilization as a set of choices (co-evolution) that affect the conditions of belonging to the Earth ecosystem (global citizenship).
Development is qualitative. Taking into account the orientation towards values and beliefs in a given time and ecosystem, it is possible to assess their translation in norms and actions, as well as their impact over time on the concerned ecosystem.
The human capacity to consciously manage development is the greatest guarantee for the ecosystem, when directed towards maintaining natural resources and services necessary for present and future generations.
The universal definition of sustainable development derives from that assumption: “a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Development should not be confused with growth.
Growth consists in the increase of goods and services (e.g. environmental, productive, technological, social, cultural and health) through human activities.
Growth is quantitative as it takes into account the amount of goods and services over a given time and from a specific ecosystem. It is therefore possible to measure their increase or reduction over time.
The general belief in a linear and continuous growth without limits is the highest risk to natural ecosystems, which have exhaustible resources and services.
Growth may occur (e.g. income and consumption) without development (e.g. unequal income distribution, poverty and pollution). Likewise, development may occur (e.g. better environmental and health conditions) without growth or with de-growth (e.g. absence of or reduction in production and consumption that are harmful to the environment and living beings).
The confusion between growth and development has grown in Western culture, especially in the last two centuries. This confusion has greatly influenced many other cultures and regions of the world. The risk of reducing the availability of natural resources in relation to production and consumption rates was underestimated, i.e. economic thought prevailed upon environmental thought.
To put this in context, it is useful to explore the meanings of economy, ecology and ecosystem, formed by the Greek terms "oikos" (home), "nomia" (set of norms), "logos" (reasoning, discourse) and "synistemi" (to put together).
Human beings establish rules for management (economy) according to values (ecology) that bring together all the components, human and non-human, of the common house (ecosystem). As a result, the weaker the ecological thought, the higher the risk that human activities compromise the ecosystem.
Buddhist economics focuses on a Right Livelihood: simplicity and not violence, consumption and production aimed at meeting human needs through a wise utilisation of all the resources (good thinking, right understanding and right thought).
In Hindu philosophy the term dharma means a way of life based on harmony between humanity and nature, equity and brotherhood, freedom of thought and wisdom, mutual understanding.
The philosophy of Gandhi pursues the welfare of all living beings in harmony with nature (sarvodaya), based on freedom, self-government and self-rule (swaraj), through independence, self-confidence and reliance on endogenous resources, commitment and solidarity towards the immediate neighbours (swadeshi); a philosophy that echoes principles of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, as well as Christianity and Islam.
In Bhutan development is understood as happiness, a holistic view of quality of life as a public good whose progress depends on the flourishing of the relationships between humanity and the other components of ecosystems.
Ibn Khaldun analysed the dynamic process of social systems using Arabic words that are usually understood and translated as prosperity, flourishing and promoting life (umran) for social solidarity and harmony (asabiyah).
In the Fulbe communities of West Africa, the "living well together" (baamtare) is based on solidarity, social harmony and personal fulfilment.
Amartya Sen states that development is a process of expanding the real freedoms that human beings enjoy to shape their own destiny, help each other, make choices and to act reasonably also in relation to allocating resources, such as the natural resources, which are "public goods "(goods enjoyed in common).
Edgar Morin argues that a policy of civilization is needed which is based on solidarity among human beings, between them and the other components of the Earth ecosystem. He underlines the need for the metamorphosis of the concept of development in that of "flourishing" to overcome the traditional techno-economic thinking of growth that affects the approaches on sustainable development.
The 2008 Ecuador Constitution celebrates the Mother Earth (Pacha Mama), in which human beings belong and that is vital to their existence. This Constitution is geared towards building a new form of coexistence, in diversity and in harmony with nature, to reach the "good living" (sumak kawsay). A democratic society that respects, in all its dimensions, the dignity of individuals and of society; a democratic country committed to peace and solidarity with all peoples of the Earth.