The concept of sustainability first appeared in the Brundtland Report, published in 1987. This document which was also referred to as Our Common Future, was elaborated for the United Nations in order to warn about the negative environmental consequences of economic development and globalization It was written with the aim of offering solutions to the problems arising from industrialization and population growth.
In 2005, the World Summit on Social Development identified three core areas that contribute to the philosophy and social science of sustainable development. These three essential pillars are: environmental protection, social development and economic growth.
There are countless examples throughout human history where a civilization has damaged its own environment and seriously affected its own survival chances (some of which Jared Diamond explores in his book Collapse: How Complex Societies Choose to Fail or Survive. Sustainability takes into account how we might live in harmony with the natural world around us, protecting it from damage and destruction.
We now live in a modern, consumerist and largely urban existence throughout the developed world and we consume a lot of natural resources every day. In our urban centers, we consume more power than those who live in rural settings and urban centers use a lot more power than average. That's not to say that sustainable living should only focus on people who live in urban centers though, there are improvements to be made everywhere. Sustainability and sustainable development focuses on balancing that fine line between competing needs, our need to move forward technologically and economically, and the needs to protect the environments in which we and others live. Sustainability is not just about the environment, it's also about our health as a society in ensuring that no people or areas of life suffer as a result of environmental legislation, and it's also about examining the longer term effects of the actions humanity takes and looking for solutions about how it may be improved.
Sustainability is important for a very simple, very straight forward reason: we cannot maintain our quality of life as human beings, the diversity of life on Earth, or Earth’s ecosystems unless we embrace it.
There are indications from all quarters and from the smallest to the largest scale that sustainability is something we must address. We will run out of fossil fuels. Thousands if not millions of animal species will become extinct. We will run out of lumber, water, health, basic needs. We will damage the atmosphere beyond repair… If we don’t change.
And the root of that change lies in understanding and striving for sustainability in our own homes, in our communities, in our ecosystems, and around the world.
Sustainability is concerned with assuming that nature and the environment are not an inexhaustible resource and so, it is necessary to protect them and use them rationally.
Sustainability promotes social development, seeking cohesion between communities and cultures to achieve satisfactory levels in quality of life, health and education.
Thirdly, sustainability focuses on equal economic growth that generates wealth for all without harming the environment.
Nowadays, many of the challenges that humans face such as climate change or water scarcity can only be tackled from a global perspective and by promoting sustainable development.
Now that you know what sustainability is, remember to act in the present thinking about the future. Learn more about sustainable development.