Development means to make something better than it was, to improve.
Notice that development does not mean growth. We all grow as
children, but then we reach a certain age and stop growing. However,
we don't stop developing just because we have stopped growing--we go
back to school, we learn a new trade or hobby, we go new places, make
new friends. This is what sustainable development is all
about--changing and making better.
We live on a world with a certain amount of resources: air, water,
energy, materials, and land. An example that many people will
understand is that of a small island community: There is a limit to
the number of people that can fit on the island and to the amount of
the island's resources that those people can consume. One example is
the island of Haiti where the need for fuel has completely deforested
the island. We are all living on an island called Earth and we need
to develop or improve our individual and global communities without
using up or wearing out the resources that we have.
(Note that the difference between "growth" and "development" is a
difficult but very important concept for people to understand in order
to make progress towards sustainability. One comment some people may
make is that growth is good as long as it is "quality" growth.
However, people need to realize that all growth is finite. A small
town can only grow so much before it ceases to be a town and becomes a
small city. Small cities that grow become large cities. If a
community likes its "small town feeling" then the community needs to
acknowledge that growth must stop at some point in order to preserve