Sustainability has been described hundreds of different ways—literally.
Many definitions revolve around the concept of the importance of what is called the triple bottom line of protecting the environment, promoting economic opportunity, and ensuring social justice.
Protecting the environment
Short-term vs. long-term perspective
- Piecemeal vs. systematic understanding of the indispensability of ecosystems for the viability of human existence
- The concept of built-in limits to the human impact that ecosystems can sustain
- Environmental degradation as stressor
Promoting economic opportunity
Recognizes the importance of providing secure, long-term employment without jeopardizing the health of ecosystems
- Importance of natural capital—the economy is a subsystem of the ecosystem.
- Concerns about growth vs. development
- Poverty as stressor
Ensuring social justice
Cooperation and community building; well being of the individual and the larger community are interdependent
- Social cohesion, compassion, and tolerance help make all members of the community feel their contribution to the whole is appreciated
- An equitable distribution of resources is recognized as essential for the long-term viability of society.
- Social inequality as stressor
And, because of the long-term impact our actions have, we also need to think intergenerationally.
What we do today impacts the future either positively or negatively. We all should consider the consequences of our actions:
How do our choices impact the environment?
Do those actions promote expanding economic opportunity and ensuring more just social conditions?