wesustain essay kenya sdgs sustainability

Photo: Head of Corporate Responsibility at Safaricom awards a finalist of the WESustain Essay Competition, Judith Otip.

This is one of the winning essays from our WESustain Essay Competition 2018. The prompt was:

How can the youth harness the opportunities in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a means of tackling the current social, economic and environmental challenges in Africa by 2030?

The Real Meaning of Sustainability 

After a tedious semester, I decided to make a visit to our rural home and take a break away from the busy and noisy life in the city. “It was going to be a good change,” I thought to myself; but what was it that would make that change, that would definitely make me feel the difference and give me a new experience of place. The journey itself was therapeutic. I quickly noted the difference in change of scenery. The green, the highlands, the plains, beautiful water features just to mention but a few and above all, how mankind and their built forms fitted perfectly into the environment as if one couldn’t exist without the other. How wonderful the view of co-existence.

When I think of sustainability what quickly rushes into mind is the ability of the current generation to use natural resources, productive resources without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. Being aware of this, mankind therefore seeks to live more sustainably and re-organize his living conditions through establishment of ecovillages, sustainable cities, green building and sustainable agriculture. Work practices, which are a major source of livelihood for mankind such as sustainable architecture and use of science to develop new technologies such as green technologies and renewable sources of energy also play a vital role in sustainable living.

The beauty of life in the rural areas is that the application of sustainable living is evident. The use of renewable sources of energy is more of the norm rather than an idea being introduced. Almost every household is tapping solar energy and using it for power, domestic and commercial use. This ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy the existence of the same since it’s renewable. Unlike the use of coal, which is a non-renewable source, the sun cannot be depleted. When I think of sustainability, I envisage how it rotates and lights up the entire universe; its continuous movement without loss of power depicts the unending circle of sustainable living.

Architecture is one of the most conspicuous forms of economic activity. A country’s economic development will necessitate more factories, office buildings and residential buildings; whereas for a household, the growth of incomes leads to desire for a larger house with more expensive building materials and so forth. A building’s existence affects the local and global environs via a series of interconnected human activities and natural processes. The goal of sustainable designs thus finds architectural solutions that guarantee the well-being and coexistence of the global ecosystem which comprises of inorganic elements, living organisms and humans. To achieve this, the principles of sustainability in architecture must be ultimately considered in design. They entail: economy of resources where there’s reduction, reuse and recycling of natural resources input to a building; life cycle design where a methodology for analyzing building processes and their impact to the environment is provided and last but not least humane design which focuses on the interactions between humans and the natural world.

Sustainability to me, brings the picture of an ideal green building. A building project that would allow me to preserve most of the natural environment around the project site, while still being able to produce a building that is going to serve a purpose. The construction and operation will promote a healthy environment for all involved and will not disrupt the land, water, resources and energy in and around the building. It’s definitely a win-win situation for everyone!

We definitely cannot put a closure to sustainability without capturing food, which is an integral part to human life existence. Green agriculture fuses both sustainable environmental practices with better labour usage on agriculture farms to reduce poverty. It uses well-developed modern farming and sustainability concepts to improve natural agricultural techniques dealing with things such as weed and pest management and organic fertilizers and seeds. It also draws on technology to push farming forward.

When I think of sustainability, I think of and envisage the future. Sustainability practices and technologies will definitely allow us to continue with the traditions we hold so dear, from generation-to-generation without harming our lovely planet. The planet we solely depend on for our existence, the planet that is our one and only home!