I’m curious, lots of companies pursue the “sustainability plans”, lots of people live the “sustainable lifestyle”, but seriously, what is “sustainability”?

Soon in our class, I will be presenting a presentation on “sustainability” with my classmates Tony and Michelle, and in the presentation we discuss the issue of what is sustainability.

It’s like one of those terms that have all sorts of definitions, for example in my geography class, it is as if the whole course is pursuing for the definition of the term “city” and what it really is. It’s true, some terms cannot be loosely defined, some terms cannot be defined by just by what the Oxford American Dictionary tells us.

Let’s see, the Oxford American Dictionary tells us that sustainability is the derivative form of “sustainable”, which means “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.” Well that seems simple enough right? But there are a lot of questions that can be raised by this definition: First, what is the “certain rate”? Is this rate constantly altering as the world changes? How do we “maintain” whatever it is we are maintaining? And how do we even maintain it to a “certain rate”?

A professor at MIT defined the term as “the possibility that human and other forms of life on earth will flourish forever.” Now this definition is much more detailed, and it feels more accurate in the sense that we know the purpose behind the “sustaining.”
At the Earth Summit in the year 2002, ¬†which promoted the concept of “sustainable development”, an African delegate defined “sustainable development” as “Enough – for all – forever.”

Basically, the term most to the term “sustainability” or “sustainable development” is “survival.” And not just survival of the human race, but also all other lifeforms, because we are all dependent on one another.

To me, I believe that “sustainability” is the ability for life on earth to survive forever, and I agree the most with a definition provided by the Brundtland Commission: “Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

But that’s our problem, it seems like our “needs” have no end…

So tell me, what’s your definition of “sustainability”?

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2 Responses to Sustainability?

  1. avatar Steve says:

    Richard Heinberg has a neat essay on this, in which he proposes a set of axioms for assessing sustainability:

  2. avatar Michelle says:

    I want to provide an example, explaining how the intensive agriculture may be sustainable. Intensive agriculture is sustainable since it combines agriculture and orchard/forestry technologies to generate more integrated, diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use systems. Intercropping can also increase total yields per unit of area or decrease inputs to accomplish the same. Thus, it represents and is potentially sustainable for agricultural intensification. On the other hand, vertical farming, a type of intensive crop production that would grow food on a large scale in urban centers, has been declared as a step to decrease the negative environmental impact of rural agriculture.

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