Defining Sustainability – A Hundred Perspectives
Sustainability as an emergent concept reveals deep concerns about fundamental values and our own continued existence. While each personʹs definition of sustainability is seen to be the most relevant, the question is a universal one and common to all. Whether our definition of sustainability is anthropocentric, biocentric, egocentric, ecocentric, econocentric, sociocentric, worldcentric or perhaps simply personally eccentric, they are all valid. Collected here is a retrospective look at over one hundred perspectives from an evolving list of thousands of definitions of sustainability, reflecting the different conceptualizations and applications of this emergent concept.
Sustainability is …
1. “Sustainability – n. the property of being sustainable” – Princeton University 2. ʺSustainable development seeks to meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet those of the futureʺ ‐ World Commission on Environment and Development (page 40: 1987) 3. ʺSustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains two key concepts: the concept of ʹneedsʹ, in particular the essential needs of the worldʹs poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organisation on the environmentʹs ability to meet present and future needs.ʺ ‐ World Commission on Environment and Development (page 43: 1987) 4. ʺEcological sustainable development is using, conserving and enhancing the communityʹs resources so that ecological processes, on which life emrgnc 2003
depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased.” National Strategy for Ecological Sustainable Development (Australia) 5. “Sustainable development is base d on the principle that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.ʺ ‐ 1992 Rio Earth Summit 6. ʺOutput Rule: Waste emissions should be within the assimilative capacity of the environment to absorb without unacceptable degradation of its future waste‐absorptive capacity or other important services. Input Rules: a) Renewables: harvest rates of renewable resources should be within the regenerative capacity of the ecosystem. b) Non‐renewables: depletion rates should be equal to the rate at which renewable substitutes can be developed and deployed.ʺ ‐ Daly, in Photiades, 1998 7. ʺSustainability is a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society and its members are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals indefinitely.ʺ‐ World IQ 8. ʺSustainability means using, developing and protecting resources at a rate and in a manner that enables people to meet their current needs and also provides that future generations can meet their own needs, ... simultaneously meeting environmental, economic and community needs.ʺ ‐ State of Oregon 9. ʺSustainability means living within the resources of the planet without damaging the environment now or within the future. It also means having an economic system that provides a genuine quality of life, rather than depending on increased consumption.ʺ ‐ West London Friends of the Earth 10. ʺSustainability is a relationship between dynamic cultural, economic, and biophysical systems associated across the landscape such that quality of life for humans continues ‐‐ both for individuals and cultures. It is a relationship in which the effects of human activities do not threaten the emrgnc 2003
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