What is Sustainability?

What is Sustainability?

The word sustainability is occurring more and more in today’s complex society, and can often invoke both fundamental and complex concepts, But what is sustainability actually? The word sustainability itself is derived from the Latin word sustinere, broken down its meaning translates to tenere, to hold and sus, up. Today’s modern dictionaries give many definitions for sustain, the primary ones include the words “maintain”, “support”, and “endure”.

The most used and accepted professional definition that may help us answer the question of what is sustainability states:  “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition is taken from the Brundtland Reprot of 1987 which came from the World Commission on Environment and Development. Consequently this report is often seen as an early landmark for developing sustainability into what it is today.

If you look at sustainability on a large scale, the act of being sustainable refers to trying to ensure a long-term balance within complex social, economic, and environmental systems. With the fundamental goal being: the ability to transfer our current quality of life to future generations while protecting as much of our resources as possible. It is a balancing act of trying to use our resources wisely. To do this it is crucial to think about our present resource consumption in terms of our future resource needs, to the best of our ability.

The most common example of how this is done involves the adoption of best management practices (often referred to as BMP’s). These BMP’s are simply routines that improve one or all of the social, economic, or environmental system’s near-term efficiency, this will in turn help with long-term production. In other words BMP’s are methods or techniques that can optimize resource use.

When answering the question what is sustainability it is also important to note sustainability is more often than not a group effort. The goal of improving the way resources are used across generations is extremely important. This will ensure our kids and other generations to come to be able to continue to live comfortably. Doing this requires examining our current practices, to figure out what we are already doing that is sustainable, and finding areas where we can improve.

For more information on the topic what is sustainability, and others, please see the Sustainability FAQs or other great resources found on Florida tech’s Sustainability Web Site.

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