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Venn diagram which is used to typically depict Sustainability [3]
The typical depiction of Sustainability
Sustainability is frequently dismissed as a useful term because it is:
a) just another word for environmentalism or development (depending on your audience)
b) it means too many different things to too many different people and thus means nothing
c) it has been captured by corporations and governments to such an extent as to have lost all meaning, among other arguments.

But these brusque dismissals, I believe, miss the critical importance of Sustainability for science, discourse and humanity’s future.¬† Sustainability is not just the combination of Environment, Economy and Society as it is often depicted (see graphic above). Nor can it be so vaguely described as “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”1)This, the most widely used definition of Sustainability (by several miles), comes from what is typically referred to as the Brundtland Comission and was officially the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) chaired by said Mr. Brundtland. In 1987 they released a document titled Our Common Future [4] which contains the famous definition. As useful as that definition has been as a founding statement-it is now over 25 years out of date.

Sustainability has emerged and must continue to grow as its own scientific discipline, professional practice and organizing approach to life and society. Sustainability is not a static objective which may one day be checked off like smallpox was eradicated but an ongoing process through which we are continually striving to achieve sustainability. For myself I define Sustainability most simply as:

“Achieving the highest quality of life¬† possible for the most people at the most times and places within the biophysical limits of planet Earth.”

This blog will examine Sustainability from many angles and foment discussions about these very issues and in particular I intend to focus on how we can actually Achieve Sustainability. So follow along for what is sure to be a grand adventure.

Footnotes   [ Our Common Future [4] which contains the famous definition.