WHAT IS SSTAIABIIT?1 TH PST CARB RAR SRIS
The essence of the term
is “that which canbe maintained over time.” By implication, this meansthat any society that is unsustainable cannot be main-tained for long and will cease to function at some point.Unfortunately, in recent years the word
hasbecome widely used to refer merely to practices thatare reputed to be more environmentally sound thanothers. Often the word is used so carelessly as to leadsome environmentalists to advise abandoning its use.
Nevertheless, the concept is indispensable and shouldbe the cornerstone for all long-range planning.It is probably safe to assume that no human living arrangement can be maintained forever. Astronomersassure us that in several billion years the Sun will haveheated to the point that Earth’s oceans will boil away.Thus
is a relative term. It seems reason-able to use as a frame of reference for the durations of prior civilizations, ranging from hundreds to thou-sands of years. A sustainable
society, then, would beable to maintain itself for many centuries at least.
How o We efine Sustainability?
The concept of sustainability has been embodied inthe traditions of many indigenous peoples; for exam- ple, it was a precept of the Iroquois Confederacy’s
, or Great Law of Peace, that chiefsconsider the impact of their decisions on the seventhgeneration to come.The first known European use of the word
) occurred in 1713 in thebook
by German forester andscientist Hans Carl von Carlowitz. Later, French andEnglish foresters adopted the practice of planting treesas a path to “sustained-yield forestry.”e term gained widespread usage aer 1987, whenthe Brundtland Report from the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Developmentdened
as development that“meets the needs of the present generation without com- promising the ability of future generations to meet theirown needs.”
is denition of sustainability has provedextremely inuential and is still widely used; neverthe-less, it has been criticized for its failure to explicitlynote the unsustainability of the use of nonrenewableresources and for its general disregard of the problem of population growth.
Also in the 1980s, Swedish oncologist Dr. Karl-HenrikRobèrt brought together leading scientists to develop aconsensus on requirements for a sustainable society. In1989 Robèrt formulated this consensus in four systemconditions for sustainability, which in turn became thebasis for an organization, the Natural Step. Subsequently,many businesses and municipalities around the world