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Why Is Sustainability Important?

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 2 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Environment Sustainability Sustainable

Climate change is a warning that our civilisation cannot carry with its present lifestyle indefinitely, changes need to be made to our daily lives in order to sustain the environment for future generations.

The Environmental Threat

The warning threat of climate change has made us sit up and think about how our existence on Earth is not a given and if we carry on as we are then we are jeopardising the future of civilisation. Sustainability has become the word that symbolises new efforts in maintaining our presence on the planet for thousands of years to come.

In theory you’d think a sustainable car or a sustainable office would mean that they have no negative impact on the environment – no carbon footprint whatsoever – meaning that both can kept on running indefinitely.

Sustainability Research

However, with its adoption by the environmental community, the media, the government and others, the meaning of sustainability has moved beyond its literal definition. It has become a ubiquitous buzz word, a catch all marketing term that simply distinguishes actions that make concessions to the planet and future generations from those that are damning them to oblivion.

Environmental factors may have prompted the concern for our ‘unsustainable’ existence but the concept of sustainability has now become more than just about how we can sustain the planet’s resources and not destroy it, it been recycled as a philosophy for living.

Sustainable Development

‘Sustainable development’ is a call to everyone to climb out of their box of self-absorption and short-term thinking and recognise that everything in daily lives in inter-connected and inter-dependent and negative actions have an impact on our future, not just an environment faux pas such as forgetting to switch off the lights.

Sustainable development has been defined by the five key principles of:

  • Quality of life.
  • Fairness and equity.
  • Participation and partnership.
  • Care for our environment.
  • Respect for ecological constraints or ‘environmental limits’ and thought for the future beyond our lifetimes.

A sustainable community, for example, is a place where people want to live and work, both now and in the future. It is a place of community pride, free of degradation, poverty, crime, unemployment and, of course, poor environmental quality.

Recycle the Term ‘Sustainability’

However, the omnipresence of sustainability has confused its meaning and dampened its impact. In now meaning any number of things, the concept of sustainability is in danger of being redundant and not meaning anything any more. It will end up becoming like the term ‘green’ – a word you can tag on to show that it has something to do with the environment.

A real sustainable office would be a workplace that has no negative impact on the environment. Its power supply comes from renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, its electrical equipment is second-hand, refurbished or made from recycled materials. The waste it produces all goes to recycling programmes.

Rather than being ubiquitous – and consequently sullied and meaningless - sustainability should be the hallowed ideal that everyone is ultimately aiming for.

It all serves to obscure the fact that sustainability, in its original form, is still very important – instead of slowing destroying the environment, it is a way of working in harmony with it.

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