Free Is Sustainable Development Possible? Essay Sample

Article Summary

In the article entitled “The Dystopian Lake Filled by the World’s Tech Lust,” Tim Maughan explains several facts arising from his observations during the visit to Baotou, one of the industrial cities in Mongolia famous for mining and processing of rare earth mines used in the manufacture of electronic gadgets and other technological devices. The production of rare earth materials involves complex chemical processes that lead to proliferation of environmentally hazardous waste in both the town and, according to Maughan, the world at large. Apparently, China is responsible for over 90% of the total global production of the rare earth, a factor that, by default, increases the quantity of environmentally hazardous waste emanating from the industrial processes involved. The rare earth materials are globally significant, especially in the development of devices such as televisions, radios, smartphones, mobile phones, magnets, motors, and turbines among others. About 70% of the rare earth’s global reserves are found in Baotou. The mining and production processes of the rare earth materials have become such a major economic and social factors that approximately two and half a million people dwell and work in the city.

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In Maughan’s opinion, the industrial processes that lead to the eventual production of the rare earth minerals have caused the formation of a man-made lake of thick chemical waste that yields irritating smell. Moreover, the cooling processes in these industries lead to the emission of gasses that form a cloudy cover that shields the sky from the earth’s surface. These are just among a few elements of environmental pollution that characterizes Mongolia and China in general. Bearing in mind the chemical composition of waste in the man-made lake and the gaseous emissions from the industries, it is obvious that environmental pollution has taken an advanced slot in Mongolia. Maughan is, however, quick to admit that, although the production processes of these earth minerals occur in Baotou, they are used globally. The environmental implications of their production are, therefore, a global issue embedded in the sustainable development debate.

The author visited two industries involved in the processing of these rare earth minerals in the course of establishing the movement of consumer goods from the mining stage to the consumer via factories and sellers. The first plant produces Cerium, which is a rare earth mineral used in polishing touch screens on electronic gadgets such as smartphones, televisions, tablets, and laptops. Although a guard who is arguably economical with his explanations accompanies the author and his crew, the plant seems abandoned and out of service. The author mentions some economic issues, both macro and micro, as possible explanations for halting production in this plant. The second plant is involved in the production of neodymium, another rare material associated with the vast industrial city. Neodymium is used in the manufacture of magnets that are common in consumer electronic devices such as headphones, cell phones, computer drives, and microphones. Maughan and his colleagues received a fairy friendly welcome in the second plant, but their major queries on the environmental implications of the plant’s activity remained unanswered. This gives an impression of an economic-minded Mongolian community that views the environmental debate as subordinate to economic development.

Maughan’s experience during this visit make him pose the question concerning the sustainability of economic and technological shifts and ambitions that characterize the existing human generations. He argues that new technological gadgets such as smartphones come at a price and should be weighed against their environmental costs. 


Despite the case in Baotou and the rest of industrialized areas where environmental pollution has taken toil and projected significantly, sustainable development is still possible and attainable when industrialization and environmental health are pursued as joint and inseparable endeavors. Economic activity, including industrialization, has to accommodate and promote environmental health. The environment provides the forum for life to continue and proliferate so that human generations do not become extinct. Bourzac argues that the present and future human generations will significantly rely on the environment to survive and support their existence as per healthy human standards. Equally significant is the human desire to produce goods and services that continually fulfill their growing needs and reflect their civilizations concerning technology, value, quality, and quantity among other factors. As human generations progress with time, their needs and wants tend to assume a dynamic trend that can generally be fulfilled by adopting advancing industrial and technological benefits of economic development. It is, therefore, important to strike a balance between successful and satisfactory fulfillment of the current human needs while still taking care of the habitat that will support the existence of human generations. Solow expressed the need for a structured and well-thought formula for combining economic activity with environmental welfare by inducing environmental health value in industrialization, technological advancement, and economic exchange. Sustainable development will be achieved through the adoption of collective environmental welfare programs, carbon credit packages, increasing the durability of the electronic gadgets, and conducting research on chemical waste neutralization.

Environmental welfare should be perceived as a global endeavor rather than a regional program. Since many people in different parts of the world are direct beneficiaries of various products manufactured using, for instance, rare earth minerals from Baotou, the negative effect of processing these products should be taken as a global responsibility. Despite the fact that the existing technology has not provided means for eradicating the negative aspects of industrial production within the geographical areas concerned, measures could be taken globally to neutralize these negative effects. For instance, increased environmental pollution in China should spur rehabilitation processes in the other parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, and America. Although the concentration of the environmental hazards will still be high within the geographical surroundings of the production sites, the net effect of these chemicals will be reduced at a larger territory. Moreover, different countries should invest in the rehabilitation of areas where environmental pollution has exceeded the ordinary limits, such as in the case with Baotou. Pezzey and Toman note that the environmental problem should not be left to the local authorities or government, because the effects will have a global spread.

One of the ways through which governments have supported environmental welfare at a global scope is through carbon credit programs. According to these programs, individuals and organizations performing activities that contribute to environmental health of producing environmentally healing products are rewarded at the expense of those individuals and organizations that pollute the environment with their activities. Governments and environmental welfare institutions play leading roles in facilitating these frameworks. Generally, carbon credits have been influential in combating environmental pollution in the western countries including Europe and America. Their application and encouragement in China might therefore provide a supporting pillar for sustainable development.

Most of the contemporary electronic devices including cell phones, smartphones, earphones, and TV sets are made from materials whose durability can be potentially increased. Munier suggests that the plastic outer cases of mobile phones may, for instance, be replaced with metallic equivalents in order to boost durability. Thus, consumers will be provided with devices that last longer and do not require frequent changing. This will, in turn, reduce production of devices and the other products to sustainable levels, which is a factor that will most probably trickle down to the production of raw materials. New technologies are common in the manufacture of these devices and should, therefore, be incorporated into the gadgets in terminal production stages.

According to Elliott, increased research on possible ways of neutralizing various environmentally hazardous chemicals that result from industrial activity should be conducted and encouraged. Existing technology has, for instance, enabled greenhouse-gas-emitting industries to neutralize significant proportions of these gases before they get into the atmosphere. Likewise, research should be conducted to establish technologies that will either allow for the neutralization of the waste chemicals into less harmful byproducts or establish means for recycling. The growing human needs provide a potential opportunity for recycling of waste into worthy and usable products that give consumer value and reduce environmental pollution.

Sustainable development is possible if industrialization and environmental conservation can be pursued together as two inseparable goals. Industrialization, among other aspects of economic development, has enabled human beings to fulfill a wide range of wants and needs. The environment, on the other hand, plays a key role in supporting human survival. To sustain development in a way that fulfills the current human needs and guarantees a healthy environment to future generations, governments and policy makers have to approach environmental conservation collectively, encourage carbon credit programs, support the manufacture of durable products, and encourage research to establish ways of neutralizing and/or recycling the industrial waste.


Research will be necessarily to inform on the various ways in which sustainability will be made part and parcel of every development move. Sustainability will largely be perceived in terms of environmental conservation programs while development will be seen as a combination of industrialization, technology and other forms of human economic pursuits.

  • Thesis

The thesis statement guiding research on sustainable development will be as follows;

“Sustainable development is possible through the application of environmentally-friendly programs to combat the polluting effects of industrial waste and other human economic activities.”

  • Structure
  1. Executive summary
  2. Introduction
    • Ways in which sustainability has been achieved in industrialization
    • What is lacking; quantities specified
    • How can weaknesses be addresses
  3. Literature review
    • Sources to be used in research
    • Intellectual suggestions from journals, interviews with scholars, archives and libraries
    • Personal suggestions
  4. Research methodology, findings and analysis
    • Measure costs of maximizing sustainability using economic, corporate, human resource and capital tools
  5. Recommendations
    • Give the most applicable way of ensuring sustainability takes priority in the industrial world.
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography
  • Sources

List all sources utilized including intellectual resources, records, data and interviews


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