Anthropology has practically answered the basic questions about human existence: that of our basic nature and origins. Humans have evolved with an advanced mental and cultural specialization, ensuring the continuity of the species as opposed to those who rely on, for example, a specific type of food source (Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development [WCED], 1987, p.29). This has led to the invention of technology that has made human life easier, but also more complex at the same time. The Brundtland Report defines sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Report of the WCED, 1987).
Consumption of Natural Resources
The author suggests that as human beings evolved, there began a marked disconnection between nature and culture. As such, he says that ‘we have become experimental creatures of our own making’ (Report of the WCED, 1987, p.30). Culture is defined as ‘the whole of society’s knowledge, beliefs and practices’ (Report of the WCED, 1987, p.32). This overreliance on cultural systems and not nature has led to the degradation of the biosphere and the extinction of numerous species. Man’s path to civilization is marked by his successive reliance on hunting, with his sharpened wood and rock weapons, later followed by agricultural practices during the New Stone Age period, marking the beginning of civilization. The Easter Islanders are a fine case for this argument. Studies show that the island was once a well-watered, green paradise with volcanic soils able to support widespread agriculture (Report of the WCED, 1987, p. 58-59). However, early explorers found it a treeless, eroded, barren land (Report of the WCED, 1987, p.57). This problem was basically caused by rapid population increase, as well as rampant deforestation for the cultural practices of statue building (Report of WCED, 1987, p.59-60).
This is similar to how people use natural resources today; lush green lands are cut down and replaced with concrete jungles. Man uses natural resources at a faster pace than he can, or will, replace them. This is bound to cause a marked change in our biosphere very soon.
The Collapse of Ancient Societies
The video shows the behavioral patterns that led to the collapse of ancient societies..There was the rapid increase in population further aggravated by the fact that this population was concentrated in small pockets of land unable to sustain them. There was also the problem of misuse of natural resources through deforestation, improper farming practices, over-hunting of particular animals and over-mining particular minerals in particular area among others. All this served to make areas barren and uninhabitable, leading to the collapse of economies and, subsequently, societies.
The world today faces the same crisis. The video shows how far-reaching today’s energy crisis is. The world’s population is increasing exponentially. As a result, there is a marked increase in demand for natural resources, especially fossil fuels. This is also due to our continued increased dependence on automobile with most households owning at least two vehicles. This problem is accelerated by the expanded home to work distance as more people move to the suburbs. Fossil fuel reserves are finite as it takes millions of years for fossils to be converted to oil. With this increased demand, oil companies extract more oil and are constantly in search for more oil fields. This is definitely not sustainable, as oil reserves are bound to run out soon. The question then becomes: how will future generations survive?
Improper development practices are the main reason why ancient societies collapsed. This is because people cannot live and economies cannot flourish where the natural environment has been decimated and rendered uninhabitable. Through examining the effects of unsustainable practices, this paper has shown the importance of sustainable development to present societies.