The juxtaposition of sustainable development with ecology and development is a valid comparison and one that is open to debate. Development at an unprecedented rate cannot continue and the lack of proper ecosystem management is making it extremely difficult to support current rates of growth. Already the adverse effect of environmental abuse is being felt. There is a direct impact on world economy due to climate change – change in weather patterns, agricultural losses, increase in floods, tornadoes, droughts. All of these have impacts on world economy.
The definition of sustainability itself has large black-holes that need explanation. As a relatively new business model, it challenges the traditional notions of growth. Whilst a growing economy simply expands, a developing economy improves. Within the frame of the definition of sustainability there is no indication of how we can support current rates of growth "without compromising on the ability of future generations to support themselves". There is no basis on which to perform a projection analysis to figure out what resource use the future generation requires because we barely know what is acceptable today. However since there is a deceptive simplicity around the concept of sustainability, it is applied to every new business model.
The idea of sustainable development is based on two assumptions. The first is that we are running out of resources and the second is that economic growth is the cause of this depletion. However, resources are becoming less, not more, scarce. Agricultural yields for all the major crops like rice, corn, and wheat have been on the increase. Increased exploration of oil, coal and natural has been revealing that known reserves are expanding. This same phenomenon has been seen with metals like aluminum, zinc, iron, and copper where reserves have increased. Improved technology has ensured that more-conservative production techniques are encouraged and this in turn has ensured the exploration and new discoveries of underground reserves. Life expectancy, housing, nutrition and education levels are improving world over. In short, the prosperity we enjoy today is leaving future generations better off, not worse off.
If the definition of sustainable development incorporates the maximization of human welfare, then this is only possible if the legal system ensures property rights in order to ensure market operability. The definition of sustainability should incorporate the idea of right to development. The right to development and by proxy the right to environment can only be guaranteed when the tragedy of the commons is abolished. Since growth and increasing wealth leads to improved environmental quality by raising demands for it, economic growth cannot be the antithesis of sustainable development but the essence of it.
Political and economic systems based on property rights is the only base to sustainable development. Government regulation to stop growth is the antithesis of any development and will see a decline in environmental quality. Scarcity of resources is the excuse given for lack of institutions that ensure human freedom.
The biggest problem is that there is no common consensus that world governments and organizations can reach in order to resolve these issues. Additionally, any measure we have in place in terms of treaties etc are not mandatory not legally-binding. Unless there is some measure that legally enforces sustainable development, the change is going to be slow to come. At this point, 'slow' cannot be afforded.