Traditional approaches to conservation, which usually relied on protecting nature from use by local communities, often failed. If people can not benefit from natural resources (or perceive the benefits of natural resources), they have little incentive to conserve them. Complementing this idea, proponents of socio-economic development have recognised the importance of natural resources in supporting life, especially for the very poorest people. This thinking has led to the concept of "sustainable development", which requires balance in the progress towards economic, social and environmental goals. It has been most famously defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) as:
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Therefore, working towards sustainable development means that both socio-economic and environmental considerations should be integrated into all programmes and projects: development agencies needs to better value and adapt to environmental needs, whilst conservationists need to value and adapt to human needs. Sustainable development is such an important influence on modern conservation policies that all modern ideas about conservation emphasise the importance of addressing human needs.
Although we may be more familiar with thinking more about the environmental and ecological aspects of sustainable development, gardens should consider if they can use their resources to contribute to human well-being and meet human needs.
- A paper presented at the 1998 botanic garden congress discusses Botanic Gardens and National Sustainable Development
- BGCI's work to link plant diversity with human well-being is informed by the principles of sustainable development. This section contains examples of how this has been achieved by botanic gardens around the world, and a report on this subject provides other examples, and outlines how the principles behind this subject.