The central problem specific to thinking about the environment is the independent value to place on such things as preservation of species, or protection of the wilderness. Such protection can be supported as a means to ordinarily human ends. For instance, when animals are regarded as sources of medicines or other benefits. But many would want to claim a non-utilitarian, absolute value for the existence of wild things and wild places; it is in their very independence of human lives that their value consist. They put us in proper place, and failure to appreciate this value is not only an aesthetic failure but one of due humility and reverence, a moral disability. The problem is one of expressing this value and mobilising it against utilitarian arguments for developing natural areas and exterminating species more or less at will.
Environmental sustainability denotes the demand to use the environment in such a way that it can persistently maintain its natural capacity for self-replenishment. The argument here is that natural resources can be exhausted if caution is not exercised in their use. As an antithetical position to idea of development, refers to the wild pursuit of material transformation for human benefit with little or no regard for the natural environment. Development is therefore regarded as the ultimate value, the ultimate end, while all natural resources are indeed only means for the realisation of this end.
Environmental sustainability discovers that, in the blind desire to exploit the resources of nature, there is likelihood that there can be a total deflation of these resources such that natural ability of nature for self-replenishment may completely be lost such that the desire and needs of future members of the community would be totally compromised. It is precisely this realisation that led to the new position that development has its limit. It is in the light of this tension between the idea of development and the value of environmental sustenance that the new concept of “sustainable development” come into human discourse as the compromise between the desire for development and need to sustain natural resources.
The concept of “sustainable development” affirms that development is not just a partial transformation of material existence but rather a holistic and positive improvement in the totality of the life of an individual or society. It also posits that the idea of antropocentrism need to be jettisoned for an ecocentrism. Most especially environmental sustainability is an axiological position to the effects that special value should not be given to humans at the expense of other constituents of the universe. Essentially, the problem of environmental sustainability is best posed in this way: How can we reconcile the tension between the temptation for humans to maximize their interests for development and the common good of the need to maintain environmental sustenance?