Sustainability And Environmental Sustainability

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Environmental sustainability is making decisions and taking actions in the interest of protecting the natural world, preserving the capability of the environment to support human life and ensuring that humans use the environment in a way that does not harm the environment. It also questions how economic development affects our environment vice versa.

Environmentally unsustainable activities (long term damage) include:
Damaging rainforests and woodlands through logging
Damaging land through mining
Polluting and over-fishing oceans, rivers and lakes
Polluting the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels
Damaging prime agricultural land through use of unsustainable farming practices

In a recent study by Standard Charted Bank measuring long-term sustainability of 31 countries, South Africa came in last. In addition, South Africa is one of the world's top 20 greenhouse gas emitters as of 2006.
This is mainly due to mining in the country. The heavy reliance on coal mines to supply 80% of the energy in South Africa causes pollution and allows toxic chemicals to leech into the surrounding land and water bodies. Poor spatial planning of human settlements, sanitation and waste management systems, storm water management, and fall in life expectancy in the past few years have also contributed to South Africa’s low long-term sustainability and high greenhouse gas emission.

Relationship between economic development and environmental sustainability (Comparisons and trade-offs)
Economic development is highly dependent on the natural resources for food and energy production, which inputs to manufacturing, and to absorbing wastes and pollutants. Thus, there is a high dependency on farming. However, South Africa is not rich in agriculture resources; ...

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... in 1995 showed that native plants and micro-organisms grow naturally in hostile mine environments and how they can be propagated to potentially rehabilitate TSFs and polluted soils. The programme focused on effectiveness of different types of vegetation in groundwater and soil remediation.
Around 80 plant species have been assessed in tailings experiments; almost 60 tree species are being assessed in woodlands trials on seepage from TSFs; and approximately 200 plant species will be used out of the almost 600 species found to grow naturally on the reef outcrops, polluted soils and tailings.
The final phase of research (2009-2012) will look at how phytoremediation plants might be able to produce materials such as precious wood, fibres, chemicals, essential oils, dyes, gums, and recoverable minerals and metals for secondary industries, and thus help local communities.
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