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What is Sustainability?

A pair of feet wearing hiking boots are propped up in front of a scenic mountain view


#equity #renewable #sustainability #terminology #values


Doug Fogelson

Sustainability recognizes that human societies, our economies, and the natural environment are interconnected, and understands that systems have limits to what they can withstand. Becoming sustainable involves long-term planning to promote resilience for future generations and best provide what we need today. It often means prioritizing local, decentralized energy sources, restorative agricultural practices, and building economies that are balanced. A sustainable world is one that treats all aspects of life equally regarding equity while maintaining cultural independence.

Achieving and maintaining balance in all of these areas is a challenge but doing so embodies deeply practical values with shared outcomes that everyone should be able to agree on. Demanding sustainable standards, measuring and regulating to utilize best practices on local, national, and international levels are currently underway, but change is moving too slowly. With years of dire warnings behind us, it is now imperative to limit global warming to less than 2C as quickly as possible. Doing this now creates exponential benefits going forward, while not changing has the opposite effect…

The United Nations General Assembly has provided a “blueprint” of seventeen interlinked goals known as the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that were adopted in 2015. Previous agreements also mapped out important goals (the SDGs build on the UN’s eight “Millennium Development Goals” of 2000). Clear understanding across the range of areas has been established, and many sectors utilize sustainable practices today, but not yet at the systemic scales needed for lasting impact.

Helping us to become sustainable are many brilliant minds and teams working hard to facilitate pragmatic solutions in many areas. Now we need everyone else to join the effort and become agents-of-change in our local/regional communities. Once we see all aspects of life “through a sustainable lens” and act in favor of self-preservation and resilience each of us can act, influence, and demand sustainable outcomes to improve quality of life and reduce risk for generations to come.

  • Action
  • Definition
  • According to UNESCO, the difference between sustainability and sustainable development is that "Sustainability is [...] a long-term goal (i.e. a more sustainable world), while sustainable development refers to the many processes and pathways to achieve it."

    True Yes, kind of seems obvious no? But it's important to qualify the concept and the means to achieve something. False Incorrect, it's true that one is a concept and the other is a practice or many practices in harmony (hopefully).