What is really sustainability?
We often hear and read the term sustainability, but rarely we can truly grasp its full meaning. In this historical period of economic, social and environmental instability (A/N come on, we are only trying to survive to climate changes, pandemic disease and economic crisis), sustainability is still an extremely important topic, that we shall all try to apply at small and large scale, from everyday life to global choices. Keep reading to discover what sustainability really is.
A process can be labelled sustainable if it can be maintained indefinitely at a certain level, in other words, without depleting social, economic and environmental resources fundamental for its maintenance. This definition, the most popular and used of the sustainability concept, was coined the 20th of March 1987, from the Brundtland Commission of United Nations. The Commission published in the same year a document “Our Common Future”, a.k.a. the Brundtland Report, in which coined and defined the meaning of the term sustainable development. Sustainable development is a form of economic development consistent with the protection of free goods and the environment for future generations. It is the base for the sustainability concept.
The three pillars of sustainability
The three pillars of sustainability, identified during the World Summit on the sustainable development of 2005, are the sustainable development, social development and environmental conservation. These three components are linked to each other and, for a long term development, one cannot exist without the others.
The environmental sustainability is defined as the capability to maintain in the future the biodiversity and the ecological processes that happen inside and ecosystem. The social sustainability point at a balance between the satisfaction of present needs without jeopardizing the possibility of future generation to satisfy their own (Brundtland Report, 1987). The economic sustainability aims at an economic process lasting through time, or in other words, at a process that uses natural resources with a rhythm that can allow their natural regeneration.
What is really sustainability?
You have the true sustainability when you contemporary satisfy the social, economic and environmental sustainabilities. Let’s take an extreme example: if you focus only on the environmental and economic aspects, leaving apart social sustainability, you can define extremely unbalanced systems, like the agricultural system in Ancient Egypt, based on slave work. Obviously, a system that doesn’t consider human rights cannot be defined as sustainable.
To sum up, a sustainable development model must include the protection of natural resources, that should be managed rationally to promote socio-economic development, respectful of the environment.
The uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources is excluded because they are not replaceable with human resources and their consume creates irreversible (e.g. animal species extinction) or reversible processes with a time frame too long for humans (e.g. forest reforestation).
Our Common Future (‘Brundtland report’) (21 May 1987) by Gru Brundtland, Mansour Khalid, Susanna Agnelli, et al.