Three Pillars of Holistic Development — Part 1

Development has been one of the most important and talked about topics which has been on focus at the international level, mainly since the second half of the twentieth century. There are a multitude of definitions attached to the idea of development. The confusion created through these varying definitions is such that it has made the term more complex, contested, ambiguous and elusive.

But development is not simply about the interactions between human groups; it also involves the natural environment. So, from another point of view, development is about the conversion of natural resources into cultural resources. This conversion has taken place throughout the history of human societies, although the process has generally increased in pace and complexity with time. If we use a system diagram to illustrate — in very general terms — what an economy does, we see that the basic function of an economy is to convert natural resources (in the forms of raw materials and energy) into products and services that are useful to humans. Inevitably, because conversion processes are never totally efficient, some waste is produced which is usually discarded into the environment as various forms of pollution. Therefore, the environment is both a source and a sink in relation to economic processes: it is a source of raw materials and energy and a sink for pollution

Largely, development is referred to in terms of infrastructure, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or generally, as economic development. But the question that arises is that how holistic is this idea of development? Is it making good roads? Is it building skyrocketing towers? Is it establishing large IT parks? Definitely not! Though these are important steps towards development but development cannot be defined through such a narrow approach of focusing only on infrastructure. It has to be inclusive, it has to focus on multiple aspects.

To understand these aspects, we first need to give a deep thought on our idea of development. How do we imagine a developed nation and what are our expectations from the end result of development? We may imagine beautiful cities, clean roads, luxurious lifestyles and tall buildings. But one thing that all of us must ponder upon is that is it really development if we have smooth roads and perfect buildings but a major chunk of our citizens are living under poverty? Would we call it development if everyone can afford an air conditioner but no one can go out and breathe in the open air? Would we call it development if everyone is financially independent but on a personal level, people feel isolated; if their is no trust or harmony in the society? There are so many aspects of development that it becomes very arduous and clumsy to define development in few words. It becomes all the more difficult to produce a criteria for assessing development through which we can clearly map all directions of it. This article is a humble attempt to map these aspects and organise them into a structure of three pillars — Economy, Life and Values.

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