What is sustainability?

Havent had much luck in getting an answer on this one unfortunately. Such a complex topic and all of the definitions that get dredged up as part of any discussion or when someone has to write a paper, usually end up being the one from the 1987 UN World Commission on Environment and Development, “our common future” or the Brundtland Report as it is know which goes

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’

Which is very nice, thankyou Mr Brundtland. But the report is over 200 pages long and even if you read the whole thing there is nothing which offers the guidance required to deliver this definition or substance around questions like how many future generations and what specific needs. So it’s not really a definition so much as a vague concept. If you’re looking for definitions that offer substance, they are hard to find and I have only managed to find one so far, (credit to Andrew ‘Wilf ‘ Wilford here) the definition goes.

“How any system, relates with its environment, and regulates its own activities, to promote enduring health and maintain system viability”

I havent digested it completely but it goes a long way to suggesting that Sustainability has to happen in every system that exists in order to be viable. The human centric approach doesn’t work for me either which is why I like this definition. We seem to try to define everything from a human perspective and as the dominant species that’s probably fair enough. When it comes to this stuff though we are talking about survival of the species.

The planet is fine, we don’t need to save it, we need to save ourselves. A whole system approach seems to be the most viable in addressing the complexity of the topic.

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