In the most basic sense, sustainability means to endure. Applying the concept to nature calls for plans to be made which meet the current needs of society while also not sacrificing future generation’s ability to meet their needs. According to the EPA, sustainability can be divided into public policy as well as private sectors like businesses. The EPA defines sustainability in the public sector as the use of basic social, economic and security needs now, and in the future, without depleting the natural resource base or the environmental quality of life, we, and anything else living, depend on. In the private sector, the goal is to support a growing economy while limiting the effects of social and economic growth. The objective is to fuse business with the environment, always making decisions with both in mind.
A previous question (cited below) put sustainability in the form of a proverb that I think is the very concept of sustainability: “We have not inherited the world from our ancestors; we have borrowed it from our children.”
I really like this proverb because I believe that the concept of sustainability is preserving or improving the environment around us so those that follow us in the many many years to come have enough to survive comfortably and can enjoy the scenery around them.
Sustainability is about survival. It is about recognizing that life beyond the individual, and even the human, has needs and will continue to have needs after the individual or even the whole of humanity has passed on. Sustainability is to live in such a way that life will survive.
Sustainability also means equilibrium. Kblasco’s definition is very insightful, but defining sustainability primarily as the ability to endure can become a slippery slope, particularly for people who have a very anthro-centric perception of the world, which puts human concerns over the health of the biosphere. Sustainability entails ensuring that the ratio of the stress we as humans put on the biosphere to the stress on the biosphere we alleviate is 1:1. Sustainability, crudely put, is about measuring inputs and outputs.
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