The Meaning of Sustainability

January 7, 2011

I just started an Energy Management program at a local community college. I have to say, I’ve never been this excited about learning something new. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainability, climate change. All the relevant topics of the day.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard a lot about sustainability. But what does it actually mean TO YOU? I had to really think about this. For me, sustainability means being able to protect, restore and enhance the earth’s natural systems and the ecological processes that sustain them so that species and ecosystems have resiliency and viability over time.

In my view, social justice is inherently part of the discussion.  Every human being on earth should be afforded the ability to meet its basic human needs in such a way that does not further deplete or incur long-term damage to in-tact systems.

My view of sustainability never included energy conservation, per se. I’ve never viewed it as going deep enough in creating the kinds of dramatic changes that will correct our course. But now I view it as bridging the gap between where we are now and where we need to be.

As businesses have taken up the call to address stockholder and customer concerns regarding corporate sustainability, many in the business world view sustainability in terms of being able to “sustain” economic growth while at the same time “maintaining” natural ecosystems. This is absurd. The pursuit of so-called economic growth is, I believe, the reason why we are experiencing such massive natural destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems. I would argue that the maintenance of current conditions doesn’t go far enough. Businesses have stepped into the sustainability fray due mostly to governmental regulations and are driven to reduce impacts accordingly. Minimizing degradation is not an appropriate strategy for real change to occur.

Lester Brown is a thought leader in sustainable development. He’s the president of Earth Policy Institute, an organization dedicated to building a sustainable future

Check out what Lester Brown has to say by clicking on the link below and let me know what you think.

Lester Brown and Sustainability

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