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Environmental Module

This is a brief introduction to environmental issues of sustainable development. When you have finished reading here, you can start exploring the Access to Safe Water learning module.

Environmental Sector

The goal of sustainable development is to improve living standards and the quality of people’s lives, both now and for future generations. Environmental issues are an important piece of the development "puzzle."

Environmental issues affect everyone

Industrial and developing countries alike share environmental concerns. Both must strive to ensure that citizens in both cities and rural areas have clean air to breathe, safe drinking water, and adequate supplies of clean renewable energy. Agriculture and industry must make efficient and responsible use of the natural resources--land, soil, forests, rivers, oceans, mineral deposits--upon which they rely.

Local issues/global issues

Some environmental issues are highly localized, but many others cross national borders. Industrial and human waste dumped into a river by one country may affect the health and livelihoods of citizens in another country hundreds of miles downstream. Ozone-depleting gases cause changes in the earth’s atmosphere that may result in rising cancer rates and lower crop yields in countries around the world. As global interdependence increases, solving environmental problems requires greater cooperation and coordination between nations regionally and worldwide.

Linking the environment with the economic and social sectors.

Environmental concerns are inextricably linked to economic issues such as poverty. People living in poverty may damage the environment as they struggle simply to survive, cutting down trees for fuel wood, exhausting crop land, and contaminating urban water supplies with waste they cannot afford to treat.

Environmental concerns are also linked with social issues such as population growth. A rapidly growing population places strains on a country’s natural resources, as well as on its ability to provide housing, health care, education, safe water, and sanitation for all.

It is only when information about the environment is combined with social and economic data that citizens and decision makers can understand the full impact of development decisions on the quality of life. The challenge for governments is to create development strategies that incorporate values of environmental sustainability, while increasing economic growth and providing adequate social services.

Environmental indicators

One way of measuring a country’s level of development is to look at environmental data such as access to safe water, which measures the percentage people who can get all the safe water they need to lead healthy lives. As you explore the Access to Safe Water learning module, what other types of environmental data and information would help you better understand how people live in a particular country? What kinds of economic and social data would give you a fuller picture of what life is like in that country?

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Click on the drop-down box beneath the indicator to select a learning tool to explore.

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