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Sustainability…Why this Term Matters to Me

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The term Sustainability is a relatively new term with roots in the “green movement” of the seventies and eighties. There are numerous definitions for Sustainability which are widely accepted, but like many other perpetrators of Sustainability, I believe that a Venn-Diagram of Sustainability which  is made up of three interconnected spheres, Social, Ecological and Economic, is the most effective tool for helping people understand the term and how to apply it in life. Each sphere shares relationships with one another and it is the middle where all three spheres overlap that the term Sustainability resides. This diagram goes beyond the simple definition of “ability to sustain” and shows what it really means, a divine balance between People, Planet and Profit. 

The title of this blog is EqualGenerations because that is what Sustainability is really all about; consuming resources in a way that does not affect the ability of future generations to maintain equal levels of consumption & livelihood. In simpler terms, conserving the planet’s resources and health of the global environment for the future generations to come. Sustainability requires innovation, determination and a commitment to selflessness in the face of resource exploitation and ecological overshoot which seems to be the direction our Planet is headed in. The global population is soon to reach 9 billion people, NINE BILLION PEOPLE!!!! Is this number even fathomable in our minds? The economics behind the resources required to support this number of people is daunting and as developing countries strive for increased livelihoods, their consumption levels rise mirrored by their pollution levels and ecological footprints. But as Americans, can we blame them for wanting accessibility to equal levels of livelihood as us in the already developed world?

Before coming to college I had never heard of the term Sustainability. I first learned the term in my Technology and Social Change Class on Globalization and Sustainability. This class helped me understand the interdisciplinary nature of Sustainability. What I mean by this is that I learned that Sustainability is not a standalone subject matter, but an area of study that seeks to better understand the relationship that human’s share with the planet and its resources. Beyond understanding, Sustainability seeks solutions to the problems posed by concepts like finite resources, exponential population growth, tipping points, ecological overshoot, climate change and other problems facing Mother Earth which will undoubtedly affect the quality of life of future generations. In this class I had the opportunity to hear perspectives from a very diverse range of people. These perspectives included presentations from economists, engineers, biologists, industrial designers, anthropologists and many others that all contributed to my broader understanding of Sustainability and how to apply it in my life.

Sustainability, to me, is an obligation to my children and my children’s children. An obligation to address problems that we cannot continue to ignore. I don’t believe anyone can predict what the future holds for our planet, but I do believe that if we continue to ignore the signs of the problems facing our entire planet without taking trans-formative actions then the way of life as we know it may be unrecognizable to the generations that will inherit both our planet and the problems facing it.


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