Question
Asked 10th Apr, 2017

What is sustainability? How can we make sustainable development a reality? How sustainability can be measured?

Sustainability and sustainable development are the catch phrases and centre-stage of all discussion in the arena of economic, environmental, social, educational activities and what not! Sustainability is the nature or property of something being sustained or that runs in perpetuity remaining same (may be dynamic stability!). On the other hand sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the presents without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs. SD satisfies the triple bottom lines (TBL) of environmental protection, economic development and social security. SD is always for people, planet and prosperity (3P), in other words, it's for environment (protection), economy (prosperity) and (social) equity (3E).

Most recent answer

16th Aug, 2017
Sharada Maligireddy
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Carson City, NV
Meanwhile, let us just hope we don't find new energy consuming manufacturing needs like we did with saying hi to a neighbor or checking if the fridge needs new milk bottle :)
1 Recommendation

Popular answers (1)

28th Aug, 2017
Mario Stipčević
Ruđer Bošković Institute
This is a very interesting and important question. Sustainability seems such a  self-understandable word, yet it is usually used only to conceal one's true intentions.
For example, sustainable use of paper. Is it better to collect old paper polluting the air with trucks and then use strong chemicals and consume energy to purify and make a new (low quality!) paper and then do all this over again until the whole Earth is polluted, OR to plant trees for paper, burn old paper (and get the energy from it) and let those trees to breathe in the CO2 generated by burning the old paper in exactly the same amount required to replace old paper with new? Even a fool can see that the strategy that is counter to usually promoted "sustainable" one is in fact more sustainable.  But industry has more interest in scenario with more trucks, more gas and chemical consumption and more useless job openings to spend public money and employ politicians' families, godfathers and friends.
So I think "sustainability" is a just a buzzword that decision-makers use to excuse just any politics they want to put forward (good or bad). The word itself is often used just  as a decoration, without any true meaning. In this situation it makes little sense to define the word properly....
152 Recommendations

All Answers (4954)

10th Apr, 2017
Jayanta Kumar Biswas
University of Kalyani
Dear RG friends & researchers,
Kindly elucidate what is sustainability and sustainable development with examples. How to make it possible to sustain a desired state in perpetuity for an  infinity time period? How can it be measured?
Expecting some illuminating and cerebral discussion at length, not an oft-cited definition given by WCED or Brundtland Commission,...........
Regards
Jayanta
10th Apr, 2017
Jayanta Kumar Biswas
University of Kalyani
Thank you KMT sir, for starting the ball rolling. I hope, it will roll on sustainably!
10th Apr, 2017
Jean-Pierre El Asmar
Royal University for Women
It is continuing to evolve, to benefit from what is available, to live; however, with concern bearing in mind that we are not living alone on this planet and that since we procreate, we cannot consume without consideration. Whatever we do has consequences of small and big dimensions and accordingly we have to behave. Individual responsibility and accountability is key in our behaviour. The main problem being in our origin as himan beings instead of adapting to the environment as animals do we adapt the environment to our needs. Being aware of this and acting with concern should be a step towards sustainability. JP
10th Apr, 2017
Abdul Majeed Khan
Research Laboratory of Bioenergy (RLB), FUUAST
The technology which can be scaled up and have a long run potential according to the demand of the global society and has a positive impact for the betterment of humanity in a sence of economy, environment, health, social life etc. will be a sustainable and the phenomenon said to be a sustainability and it can be measured by the level of peace and comfort experienced by the humanity.
10th Apr, 2017
Mohamed Hassaan
National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries
sustainability Good word
but hard to practice I guess at least in developing countries
regards
1 Recommendation
10th Apr, 2017
Jayanta Kumar Biswas
University of Kalyani
Dear MH,
You just passed the superficial comment bypassing the real issue dear!
Contribute something concrete
JKB
1 Recommendation
10th Apr, 2017
Juan C. Díaz-Pérez
University of Georgia
 The three pillars of sustainability, namely environmental stewardship, economic prosperity and social equity are often difficult to reach because these pillars may go in opposite directions to each others and thus require a compromise. For instance, an agricultural system that is environmentally sustainable (e.g. reduced pesticide and fertilizer use) and pays more fair wages to farm-workers may involve increased production costs and thus result in reduced income to farmers. Thus, sustainability demands a moral commitment and a long term vision. A system based primarily on increased productivity and increased profitability will likely not be sustainable.
3 Recommendations
11th Apr, 2017
P K Viswanathan
Amrita School of Business Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri, India
There is a very useful book, which discusses the ways of measuring sustainability. Pls have a look at: VanLoon, G.W., S.G. Patil, and L.B. Hugar. 2005.
Agricultural Sustainability: Strategies for
Assessment. New Delhi: Sage Publications;
London: Thousand Oaks, 281 pp.
11th Apr, 2017
Surender Singh
CCS Haryana Agricultural University
Sustainability has often been defined as how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive. But, the 21st-century definition of sustainability goes far beyond these narrow parameters. Today, it refers to the need to develop the sustainable models necessary for both the human race and planet Earth to survive.
11th Apr, 2017
Surender Singh
CCS Haryana Agricultural University
The idea of sustainability stems from the concept of sustainable development which became common language at the World's first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Bruntland Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development (1992)
11th Apr, 2017
Surender Singh
CCS Haryana Agricultural University
In ecology, sustainability  is the property of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture. Sustainability science is the study of sustainable development and environmental science.
11th Apr, 2017
Surender Singh
CCS Haryana Agricultural University
Sustainability is a broad discipline, giving students and graduates insights into most aspects of the human world from business to technology to environment and the social sciences. The core skills with which a graduates leaves college or university are highly sought after, especially in a modern world looking to drastically reduce carbon emissions and discover and develop the technologies of the future. Sustainability draws on politics, economics and, philosophy and other social sciences as well as the hard sciences.
11th Apr, 2017
Surender Singh
CCS Haryana Agricultural University
Sustainability is a complex concept. The most often quoted definition comes from the UN Bruntland commission: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
11th Apr, 2017
Surender Singh
CCS Haryana Agricultural University
11th Apr, 2017
Surender Singh
CCS Haryana Agricultural University
Sustainability is improving ecological integrity, human well-being, and social justice for present and future generations is the grand challenge of sustainability.
12th Apr, 2017
Peter Bartelmus
Bergische Universität Wuppertal
I distinguish between ecological, economic and developmental sustainability. You might wish to consult my publications on "Quantitative ECC–comics" (Springer 2008) or "Sustainability Economics" (Routledge 2013). Best, PB
12th Apr, 2017
Peter Bartelmus
Bergische Universität Wuppertal
Dear Kenneth,
It depends on what you want to measure. Multi-dimensional development would have to find sustainability in all dimensions. Typically only economic and environmental/ecological sustainability are quantifiable as capital maintenance and carrying capacity or resilience of ecosystems are quantifiable. My conclusion: sustainable development has run its course, focus should be narrowly on the sustainability of green economic growth with supportive assessments of ecological sustainability in non-monetary terms, notably by green accounting. Setting normative goals is judgmental and requires political negotiation – unavoidable in real policy making.
Best, Peter
12th Apr, 2017
Peter Bartelmus
Bergische Universität Wuppertal
green is ecologically sustainable. Demographic or distributional issues would be part of a 'social' sustainability concept – covered in principle by 'sustainable development.
12th Apr, 2017
Mark Yuschak
Kean University
Sustainability goes across many discipline. Yes, population is a concern but how do we control population? China tried to control population and now its feeling the effects of it. We can't control population without education. I understand that population put a heavy burden on resources. Here in the US we have 25% of the world's population and use 75% of the world's resources! This is far from sustainability. Also, you are only addressing either the 3P's or the 3E's which are pretty much the same. Brian Dunbar introduced the EcoSphere which takes into consideration ,not only the 3E's but brings it down to the local scale. We cannot not have sustainability without considering our effects on the local scale. 
13th Apr, 2017
Jc Wandemberg
WOXSEN
Sustainable Development is a Socio-Ecological process characterized by Ideal-Seeking Behavior (ISB). ISB is the Desire and the Ability (i.e., opportunity & resources) to progress towards a goal, or sacrifice a goal for the sake of an ideal. An Ideal, is unattainable in a given time/space, but it is endlessly approachable and eventually attainable. It is the endless pursuit of an Ideal what drives sustainability into the system. The four Universal Ideals are: Homonomy, Humanity, Nurturance, and Beauty. https://www.createspace.com/5678024
13th Apr, 2017
Mark Yuschak
Kean University
It is difficult to limit population growth without offending some religious groups. One way to help offset the need for resources due to population growth is practicing the Circular Economy. We are concerned with the use of resources because of population growth but yet the developed world is using resources at an alarming rate. And we need to get away from the Top Down approach. 
14th Apr, 2017
Mark Yuschak
Kean University
Where are you going with control? No one is saying religious groups  are or will control sustainability. The fact is, some religious groups do not believe that sustainability is an issue. If we follow the idea of true sustainability you'll never achieve it. However, to achieve some sort of sustainability you must think of how you can achieve sustainability by only using what is needed. As far as an "academic exercise that is unworkable" If we don't try to work it out how are we ever going to achieve any level of sustainability? 
14th Apr, 2017
Abdul Qadir
COMSATS University Islamabad
Sustainability can be achieved if we differentiate between basic human needs and human desires. Until and unless we restrict ourselves to our needs only, sustainability may not be achieved because sky is the limit then for human desires. 
16th Apr, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
There are lots of lists of ‘required but insufficient’ conditions of Planetary Sustainability. This isn’t really surprising, considering that Sustainability is the broadest topic of human study that can exist on the planet. It is much easier for a single person (or even a team of people) to describe the bits that would be required for any one aspect of Sustainability, than for someone to put them all together to cover the whole topic.
This is my effort at a list of ‘required and sufficient’ system conditions of Planetary Sustainability, applied at a community scale.  That community could be a Town, or a Nation, or anything in between. I would expect that any smaller scale would have to be consistent with this list. Thus corporate, individual, or project Sustainability (as examples) could be considered in isolation of the rest of the system if the effort was consistent with any of this list, without being in opposition to the rest of the list.
1. Each community must have a non-declining portion of their landmass that is protected as 'wilderness'. It must be prevented from being a source of resources or a sink for waste.
2. Each community must have an Ecological Footprint that is no larger than the Biocapacity for each biome.
3. Each community must not import resources or export waste to meet their needs.
4. Each community must be able to meet the needs of their entire population in less than 24 hours per day per capita.
There's about 500 words required to explain each of those, but I'll leave them off for brevity.
2 Recommendations
16th Apr, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
Population x consumption per capita = total consumption.  If a community has an ecological footprint that exceeds the biocapacity of the landmass it manages (like China, India, or the US), then total consumption must decline (either by choice or otherwise).  If a community does not exceed capacity (and there are many), then there is some room for total consumption to grow. 
Each community enforces their own, because it is in their own best interest to do so.  Sustainability can be King.  If my neighbour wants to cut down the last of their own trees, and watch their soil wash away, then that's up to them.  Don't be surprised when I don't accept the refugees, though.
Sustainability is the ability to maintain the quality of life of the population in perpetuity.  If one was prudent, that would be the existing population and the expected growth for some foreseeable future (say the next 100 years). 
Climate change is a symptom of excess consumption, and is not really the problem.  Addressing climate change does little to address excess consumption.  Addressing excess consumption resolves climate change.  The wicked problem is actually defining the correct problem, rather than the symptoms.
1 Recommendation
17th Apr, 2017
Adelio A S C Machado
University of Porto, Faculty of Science
Sustainability (SUST)/Sustainable Development (SD) are very complex systemic concepts involving a lot of dimensions in different fields of knowledge (for instance, nature and state of ecosystems, change of ecosystems by exploitation; effects of exploitation on human cultures; technologies and markets for providing human needs; ethics; etc., etc., etc.). Therefore simple definitions (like "meeting human needs in a socially just manner without impacting negatively  the health of ecosystems" ), as well as their assessment, are extremely difficult (if not impossible!) and always imprecise/uncertain. They depend strongly on the context, scales (time and space), aim, etc. Therefore, first define your problem/situation (don't forget it is dynamic!) and purpose, then try to find the main variables at play and suitable metrics for evaluation of the evolution of the problem.
Two cautionary remarks: First, the three basic Brundltand  dimensions (the 3P: Planet, People and Profit) involve numerous 2D and 3D interactions among them, therefore the linear thinking of Cartesian reductionism is not suitable to deal with the assessment - systems thinking is required (a measurement system of metrics must be designed and coupled to the system under evaluation to obtain information on its evolution). Second, on the other hand, SD is "forbidden" by the Second Law of Thermodynamics - it is an ideal limit that can never be attained, therefore durability, not  unlimited sustainability, should be aimed as objective.
The system under evaluation is  the very complex "Earth- Man System": the human civilization ("history") anchored on the planet, under continued  evolution, with numerous mutual interactions of different types that deteriorate the environment, limit the economic development, etc., and impose limits to the continuity of the civilization - therefore requiring a new style of development to support its durability. Therefore, a very large battery of metrics (measurement system)  is required to capture all the variables at play in the Environment, Economy and Equity (the 3E) and their interactions.
In conclusion, be practical: define the boundaries of the Earth-Man subsystem in which you are interested and try to find a set of metrics to evaluate what you want to know. Sorry, the advice is good but... it is difficult to implement. 
4 Recommendations
17th Apr, 2017
Marjory Gonzalez
Autonomous University of Mexico City
Is it population, or is it the economics? When the richnnes of humankind is in 1% of the population, well, you'd better think it twice. Here's a splendid article about sustainability vs. growth
17th Apr, 2017
Ali hussien Amteghy
University of Basrah
great
18th Apr, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
Adelio brings up an excellent point - monitoring requires many metrics (measurements, indicators, and indices), and at all times the compression of the data means stuff is going to be missed.  Which, as he rightly says, is why we use many, many different metrics, each appropriate for the system we are trying to manage.
Think of the pilot of a Jumbo Jet - she will have 160 indicators on the dashboard, and potentially the same number of controls to make adjustments about how the plane is to fly.  Of course, not a single indicator was used to design the plane in the first place, because most of the decisions that went into achieving the performance envelope will be hard limits that are generally unchanging - area of wing, length of plane, size of fuel tank, etc.. 
To design, or to manage, will require completely different approaches.  If you attempt to design for the indicator, your 'Canary in the Coal Mine' will end up with a self-contained breathing apparatus.  And yes, there are plenty of examples of engineers doing things that dumb in what otherwise should be prudent design processes.
2 Recommendations
18th Apr, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
Kenneth, you're not wrong, but you're missing the mark, too.
This table comes from the Ecological Footprint Explorer, sorted for the big 5 ecological footprints, using 2012 data.  All values are in millions; either Millions of GHa,  or Millions of population:
            Total EF       Population
China       4759          1408
US           2609            317.5
India        1434          1236
Russia       814            143.2
Japan        638            127.3
As we can see, big populations are related to big consumption.  Yup, you're not wrong.  Only Russia has a surplus of biocapacity (of about 157).  The rest of these are importing footprint in a big way.
Lets see how this has increased over the previous 5 years, since 2007:
   Change in pop.     Change in EF
China     4.08%       20.25%
US         5.02%      -17.32%
India      2.45%       20.96%
Russia  -0.05%     -21.28%
Japan     3.62%       1.16%
So the rate of change in EF has nothing to do with the rate of change in population.  Limiting population growth, such as China is doing, will do much much less than limiting the growth in EF per capita.  If everyone wants to be in a first world setting, they are going to run out of planet pretty fast (oh, we did that already...). 
The thing is, it is self correcting - no enforcement is required.  At some point, the critical resources being used to support the extravagant lifestyle won't be available on the market.  Fossil Carbon is finite, and will exhaust within my kids lifetime at the current rate of change of use.  Conventional agriculture and aquiculture will cease to be able to feed the planet in a surprisingly short period of time.  Extra food won't be available at any price. 
If we, and that's everyone, want to make no choice, that's still a choice, and when the critical resources your community depends on cease to be available, you will not be able to make the choice of what you do without - someone else will make that decision.  And yes, there is a concept of mutual best interest, but if my people are hungry, they won't be exporting food, no matter what you're going to trade for it.
4 Recommendations
18th Apr, 2017
Iveta Marková
University of Žilina Faculty of Security Engineering
great
19th Apr, 2017
Ali hussien Amteghy
University of Basrah
great
19th Apr, 2017
G. Daurelio
Politecnico di Bari
Dear Colleagues  ( if You let me )
Douglas Nuttall  and  Kenneth M Towe ,
I have read Your Observations, reported above and  I was amazed even if many of your news now are reported by many media.
The question of raising the World Population has already been started to argue when I was only 18 years old (now I have 67 years), with CATASTROPHIC forecasts but, fortunately, it has not yet happened. The era of fossil carbon is over, maybe, soon, also will end the age of oil, then the Natural Gas .............. but it is the era of the RENEWABLE ENERGIES ( Finally the human being begins to be a clever bit). NATURE DESERVES RESPECT and needs of its slow and time-consuming.
Being human continues to pass from an excess to another (situation of ON - OFF), passing through a point of possible equilibrium ECO SUSTAINABLE. You download millions of tons of CO2 in the air; so instead of the INCREASE FORESTRY, it is reduced year after year and then we complain of climate change. A small part of World Population EAT TOO, such as fattening pigs (and then makes DIET slimming) while still MILLIONS of people worldwide HAVING VERY LITTLE or die from hunger. SHAME !!!!!! I conclude: I think it's not a problem of number of inhabitants of the Earth or the coal or oil or other energy sources .............. but the real problem is ETHICS, the Social Justice WORLD, reciprocity, to lower levels of individual selfishness, City, State, etc etc. We still have much to learn from Mother Nature, its natural mechanisms, its balance, its time and all the beauties of Creation that WE ARE DESTROYING.
19th Apr, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
Actually, food insecurity is independent of population growth.  We will eliminate the last of the open oceanic fisheries this year (Note that the FAO didn't bother talking about open ocean fishing - only aquiculture - in their most recent state of the oceans report).  At the current rate of soil loss and climate change, there won't be enough (soil+water) to feed the population we have today using conventional agriculture by 2020.   
That there is population growth, our problems get worse.  Your graph shows that CO2 concentration is near-to-linear.  Using data from 1900 (at 1.6 billion people, and 296 ppm CO2) and 1925 (2 billion, 305 ppm), suggests a purely linear population relationship would show us that 3 billion would result in 330 ppm (slightly higher than measured reality) and 427ppm at a population of 7.4 Billion (again, slightly higher than reality).  So, yes, carbon concentration in the atmosphere is closely related to population.
Note, however, that the US has dropped their EF (mostly in Carbon Footprint) while increasing their population over 5 years.  While closely related, they need not be directly tied.
It is population and consumption together that is the problem. The product of population and consumption has to drop on a planetary basis by 40% (and, one way or another, will).  The US consumption, for example, will have to drop in half.  At the current rate of change, the US can get there by around 2030.  The population may have gone up 15% by then, but the EF will have become manageable from the resources available from the land it manages.
It can be shown that while a community is below capacity (eg, EF<BC) additional population improves the average quality of life in the community.  It can also be shown that when EF>BC, additional population will have no immediate improvement and is likely to cause things to get worse. 
20th Apr, 2017
Lynn Johannson
University of Waterloo
This is an interesting thread. I agree that the concept of sustainability has multiple meanings, depending on the audience. In the financial community, it means 'longevity' and tends to focus on the big "cos". Interestingly, Fortune magazine a year or two ago pointed out that from a list of the top companies in play in the 1950s, only 12% were still around. So when government policy favours the big cos, its not necessarily the wisest strategy. Personally, I prefer to engage people in discussions around productivity, and the need to 'green' this. Productivity is a much easier sell than a discussion around sustainability.  I qualify my discussions with people to talk about PLANET, people, prosperity. Logically planet always comes first, although too much of the world thinks its money that makes the world go round (displacing gravitational forces). Mental models can dramatically affect people's reaction to an idea, so beliefs shape action or inaction. Either has consequences. Language is important, as is the math and science behind any discussion we have with our peers, and those we try to get to understand that a future without respecting the laws of Mother Nature will be radically different. There are different currencies that have to be considered. Energy is the currency of productivity, Mother Nature has optimized this, with some modest duplication as a risk management strategy. If you approach someone and ask them if they feel they would like to be more productive, they can embrace the idea within 90 seconds (based on biochemistry); people know what it FEELS like to be more productive, and they can align action to that feeling. Ask them if they would like to be more sustainable, and they tend to be frozen like a deer in a headlight, because they don't know what sustainability FEELS like. 
2 Recommendations
1st May, 2017
Max Jacobo Moreno Madriñán
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Jayanta, nice definitions. Unfortunately, these terms have become clichés aimed to give legitimacy to activities, projects, academic programs, etc., with the intention to satisfy the growing public demand for environmental attention. The very system that causes the environmental problem capitalizes on the public desire to achieve sustainable development and skillfully incorporate these terms within their profit seeking equation. So the concepts of sustainability and sustainable development are often distorted into productivity and sustainable growth, which by definition defeat the factual concepts.  
To make sustainable development a reality we need a utopian solution. This solution will require substituting the goal of profit for that of wellbeing and quality of life. It would imply developing adequate indexes, which logically would not be based on monetary variables.
As long as monetary profit is the goal driving our activities, the concepts of sustainability and sustainable development will be just elements of environmentally friendly policies helpful to attenuate impacts and delay the eventual depletion of resources.
4 Recommendations
1st May, 2017
Jayanta Kumar Biswas
University of Kalyani
Dear Max,
My pleasure! Thanks for your nice response. Sustainable development seems to be an impossible possibility, an utopian dreamland, unreal reality! But if we all - each and every member of human society change our lifestyle, redefine industrial progress and development, reorient development path, be inspired by nature, reflect nature's principles in human activities- both personal, social, industrial spheres SD may dawn down to the Mother Earth. It's like we can never think of single drops altogether joining hands form the fathomless, limitless oceans! But definitely that's an Herculean task because it's hardly thinkable that all human being stand together, work together for common well being of all, for an enduring future of the future generations.
Best wishes
Jayanta 
1st May, 2017
Max Jacobo Moreno Madriñán
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Keneeth, I do not think it is something even close to sustaining somebody else at one’s expenses. That would sound like a certain political theory that I do not agree with and that I believe is not related to what I am trying to say here.
Now, in regard to sustainable development, considering it as sustainable growth is indeed a contradiction. Growth is unsustainable but the satisfaction of humans needs can be sustainable. The point is that to achieve the second it would be required to substitute the goal of monetary profit for that of well-being, which as I said is a utopia.
1st May, 2017
Max Jacobo Moreno Madriñán
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Dear Jayanta, I totally agree with you.
Max
1st May, 2017
Max Jacobo Moreno Madriñán
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
That’s also true.  It is relative.
2nd May, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
It can be shown fairly simply that changes in consumption in 'technologically rich' settings will have far less impact on quality of life than removing obstructions from the self/family/community that prevent people from meeting their needs.  De-Growth (in the urban US, for example) can be tied to Human Development and have an increased quality of life while having a reduced ecological impact.  It's not completely utopian, just requiring a different perspective.
1 Recommendation
2nd May, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
Well, places that are overpopulated will have population decreases as the stresses caused by over-consumption cause climate change, soil loss, fisheries collapses, critical resource shortages, etc., force a Malthusian spectre to loom over their heads.  The math doesn't say how this will happen, only that it will.  It can be that we open our borders and accept 70 million ecological refugees each year for the foreseeable future.  It can be that the 4 Horsemen will be stomping around for some time.  Most likely, we will see significant population migration from food- and water-insecure areas, and we will see local wars targeting civilians to drive them out/kill them. If the world can't support 9 billion people, then it won't.
That all being said, we will be forced to go 'unconventional' to solve this.  There will be unique solutions throughout the world, adapting to the local conditions.  Unconventional agriculture will be required, as will unconventional resource allocation, unconventional economics, etc.  Most of what we hold dear and true today will have significantly less meaning in as little as 30 years from now.  There will not be any one silver bullet, and in many locations there will not be any real improvements in quality of life for the vast majority of the population.  But I'm still hopeful because for every door that we can predict is closing, there will be another door opening that we can't see from our current vantage point.  Maybe we will grow up a little as a society, and stop acting like spoiled 12 yr olds...  we can but hope.
2nd May, 2017
Ammar Dakhil
University of Basrah
We have been in negative equation where we took from this plant more than we give. It is the time (if we want to survived) to make this equation positive. This is sustainability as I can see it.
3rd May, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
And that, Kenneth, is precisely why we aren't waiting for government to do this for us.  The governments we have attempt to maintain the status quo (while dressing it up as 'progress'), and so are uniquely placed to avoid addressing the underlying issues. 
3rd May, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
For a nice concise package of Laws of Sustainability, see http://www.resilience.org/stories/2009-11-06/dr-albert-bartletts-laws-sustainability/
Enforcement of these laws is not by human institutions, but by reality.
1 Recommendation
3rd May, 2017
Belay Zerga Seware
Wolkite University College of Agriculture and Natural Resource
Dear, see the following attachment.
  Good Luck!
5th May, 2017
Kripa Dwarakanath
CH2M Hill
Sustainable Development might be achieved if 'living within limits' and 'utility of material to infinity' can be achieved. 
Sustainable consumption might contribute to living within limits- use resources that is available locally/ regionally for food consumption and stick to what is available as a seasonal produce rather than cultivate a seasonal produce throughout the year  (and import it from a far away country). 
As with other materials that we use, instil a culture (supported by appropriate facilities) to push utility of an item to infinity- can we have shops to repair broken white goods, mobiles, computers, and all the gadgets that have been invented and to be invented, rather than simply dump them for 'upgrades' offered in the market?
Both of the above  are tough to achieve because:
a) they do not align with the lifestyle that is being created for us now (for those who could afford it of course, which creates an imbalance for those who could not afford); and
b) corporations (manufacturing and services industry) will not be able to churn constant upgrades and get us to spend on new products rather than amend and re-use existing products.
These do not however answer questions relating to ecological refugees.
1 Recommendation
7th May, 2017
G. Daurelio
Politecnico di Bari
Sono pienamente e completamente daccordo con Te .
Purtroppo l'Uomo è uno strano animale. A. Einstein diceva ( è scritto ) che l'Uomo è l'animale più stupido del Creato, perchè impiega 2/3 della sua vita a non capire e il rimanente 1/3 a capire che fino ad allora non aveva capito.
Domanda che molto spesso mi viene rivolta da Amici, ex Studenti , ex Collaboratori : ma io o noi che possiamo fare ????
Io , sempre così rispondo :
DAI agli altri il tuo esempio, piccolo , piccolo che esso possa essere o possa sembrare a te .
La Storia dell'Uomo e della Natura insegnano :
I cambiamenti troppo rapidi portano quasi sempre a Disastri !!!!
Fai come fanno gli Agricoltori ..............SEMINANO .
Forse qualche seme sarà mangiato dagli uccelli, altri semi andranno spazzati via dal vento, altri saranno attorniati da Erbe Infestanti , ma ..........alcuni semi marciranno ..............producendo NUOVA VITA .
E attento .....................i BAMBINI ci guardano !!!!!!
***************
I fully and completely agree with you.
Sadly, Man is a weird animal. A. Einstein said (it is written) that Man is the most stupid creature of Creation, because he employs 2/3 of his life not to understand and the remaining 1/3 to understand that until then he did not understand.
Question that I am most often asked by Friends, Former Students, Former Collaborators: but I or We Can Do It ??
I always say so:
Give others your example, small, small, that it may or may seem to you.
The History of Man and Nature teach:
The too rapid changes almost always lead to Disasters !!!!
Do as Farmers Do ... SEMINATE.
Maybe some seeds will be eaten by birds, other seeds will be swept away by the wind, others will be surrounded by herbs, but .......... some seeds will rot ............. .producing NEW LIFE.
And careful ..................... the CHILDREN look at us !!!!!!
Giuseppe Daurelio
8th May, 2017
Methil Narayanan Kutty
"Prasadam", Puthur, Palakkad, Kerala State, India
Accepting the principle of ecologically sustainable development, the Brundtland Commission defined SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT as one that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet with their own needs” (“Our Common Future”, WCED, 1987). According to FAO sustainable development (in agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) would conserve land, water, plant and animal resources and would be environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.
Sustainable development is “the management and conservation of natural resource base and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations” (Code of Responsible Fisheries/ Aquaculture, FAO, 1997). Based on this several Codes of management practices recommended to assist the fishermen, farmers & traders & others involved in fisheries and aquaculture in adopting a good management systems (GMS) and to eliminate or reduce negative environmental and social impacts of aquaculture. 
Source: Kutty. M. N.(2008). Sustainable development, global warming and aquaculture, Souvenir, Eighth Indian Fisheries Forum, 22-26 November 2008, Kolkata, India, pp. 59-68.
8th May, 2017
Virgilio Strasburg
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
I believe that the main issue isn’t to define exactly what is "sustainability". There are already scientific definitions for this. Making sustainable development, I would say, is impossible because the economic factor is the driving force behind policies (see Kyoto Protocol). Likewise, the measurement of sustainability can be done in several ways. Developing one that can contemplate all variables would be extremely complex if we think of a world where there are no more boundaries. That way, a measure will always be made that is more interesting about some aspect for someone else.
2 Recommendations
19th May, 2017
Saad Sarsam
University of Baghdad
Dear
Sustainability from engineering point of view is to reserve the resources, reuse of construction material, apply little impact on the environment.
19th May, 2017
Jc Wandemberg
WOXSEN
What is Sustainability?
A socio-ecological process characterized by ideal-seeking behavior. Ideal-seeking behavior, as opposed to goal-seeking behavior, is by definition sustainable since an ideal is unattainable –in a given time/space– but endlessly approachable. It is this endless pursuit what builds in sustainability into the process. An ideal may, eventually, become a reality (e.g., flying, going to the moon, etc.). It is the endless pursuit of ideals what has been behind every inch of human progress. http://sustainablesystemsinternational.org/?page_id=40
19th May, 2017
Jayanta Kumar Biswas
University of Kalyani
Sorry, Dr. Wandemberg, i disagree. Sustainability is reality in natural world - in nature, in natural ecosystems. All natural systems, be it wetlands, forests are sustainable. They work on the principles of solar income, cycling and recycling of resources, unity amidst diversity, cooperation, resilience and dynamic stability, efficiency and sufficiency. We found degradation and depletion in ecosystems in recent times, courtesy humans. The hidden or open hands of humans  are the cause of all ecosystem ills and dwindling of ecosystem services from which you may prima facie think that they are not sustainable. The signature of sustainability is everywhere in nature, we needn't open out third eye to look at but need a natural sense and sensibility - an eco-conscious heart and mind to discover it!  If we borrow sustainability ideas from nature,  emulate nature in our life - both personal, social, business and industrial or economic spheres. For examples, domestic animal keeping, cattle, poultry among the traditional people show simplest and classic examples of sustainable practice, organic agriculture practiced by some tradition community is example of sustainable   culture, and many more............
Yes, you may consider sustainable growth an impossibility but we can strive for sustainable development. Of course it is next to impossible in a consumerist, market driven society. Still we should all actively take part in the journey of sustainable development. No, it's not a destination, but a continuous journey, never ending   process. We can't afford the 'business as usual' adopting the shield that 'sustainability is unreality, sustainable development is a myth. Mother earth, Mother Nature won't spare and tolerate beyond certain limits, we have to face then the stark reality!
2 Recommendations
28th Jul, 2017
Kheiry Hassan M. Ishag
Dhofar Foods and Investment Company
sustanable development is to use present resources for current needs without comprmized and deterutaion of future resources capacity
1 Recommendation
2nd Aug, 2017
Salvador Trevizan
Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz
First of all, we need to add: sustainability of what? If that question has to due with environment, the answer should take into consideration, at least, three dimensions of the environment: biotic, a-biotic and anthropic dimentions of the environment. The two first dimensions have to do with conservation of natural resources; the last one has to due with possibilities of improving human quality of life. If one of those three dimensions do not go well, one cannot say that environment is sustainable.
2nd Aug, 2017
Douglas Nuttall
The principle of 'Sustainability' at a community scale would suggest the community (however that gets defined) would be able to be able to maintain a specified quality of life in perpetuity, given the landmass it manages, with the population, resources, technology, ecosystem, and culture that it has today.
If one is thinking about Sustainability at a different scale (business, building, individual, family, etc), then I think one would have to show that the Sustainability of the community is not negatively impacted by the choices being made by the smaller scale.  I don't think one is able to show that that smaller scale can be considered 'Sustainable' in isolation of the community they are part of.
3rd Aug, 2017
Salvador Trevizan
Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz
In my view, when people use the word "environment", usually, it would be better to say "natural resources" instead. It sounds weird to me when someone refers to "environment, economy and social sustainability". I would sugest that, in such a case, we should talk  of natural resources, economy and social issues. Environmental Sustainability, than, comprises sustainability of those three dimensions of environment. However, the traditional concept of sustainability as "development that meets the needs of the presents without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs" fits good when referring to natural resources, but do not  fit well when referring to social sustainability. This one as to do with social values wich change over time. In this case, indicators of social sustainability also change over time. In any case,  a vast literature on indicators to measure sustainability for the three dimensions is availabe.
3rd Aug, 2017
P K Viswanathan
Amrita School of Business Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri, India
Whatever way one looks at Sustainability, the broad definition as developed by the WCED (Our Common Future, 1986) is definitely an all-encompassing one, whether you call it environmental sustainability, social sustainability, economic sustainability, etc. What we now should consider is to explore a critical question, "under what conditions and scenarios the concept of sustainability gets a universal acceptance - across sectors, economies, environments, societies, etc - irrespective of the state of development"  
3rd Aug, 2017
Victor Mweiwa
Malawi Institute of Tourism
Sustainability issues arise whenever a valued system, object, process or attribute is under threat. The existence of the valued system, object, process or attribute could be threatened or its quality could be threatened with serious decline. In other words there is a sustainability issue whenever there is something that is valued that reduce or eliminate the risk associated with the dimensions of sustainability for instance environmental, economic and social.
 Sustainability means integration or balancing of social, environmental and economic issues. It involves analyzing the systems, environment and creating programs or actions based on stakeholder consultation. Sustainable development is centered on making people better in an ethically sound way, that benefits the natural environment and economically viable.
 If attempts are limited to address issues affecting each of the spheres mentioned, sustainability will be in question.
11th Aug, 2017
Robert Kowalski
Warsaw University of Life Sciences - SGGW
If only it were that simple. You could do worse than taking a look at:
Kowalski, R. (2013) Sense and Sustainability - the Paradoxes that Sustain. World Futures 69 (2), 75-88.
1 Recommendation
14th Aug, 2017
Jacek B. Krawczyk
The University of Sydney
I believe framing 'sustainability' as a viability theory probem may be the way to go. Please have a look at 
and 
Let me know what you think
Jacek 
15th Aug, 2017
Ranko Bozovic
EnPlus
Hi Kenneth,
This is indeed very important question. There should not be a general answer.
The logical answer would be that: We decide. Each of us will have own applicable definition.
1 Recommendation
16th Aug, 2017
P K Viswanathan
Amrita School of Business Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri, India
Agree with Ales Kralj's views that development cannot be sustainable whichever pathway we tread on. In the light of the increasing issues of insecurity confronting the conventional energy sources, we consider that solar or wind systems offer immense potentials for the future and that they turn out to be sustainable, which may not be the case as Ales Kralj and others view. To cite an example, we believe that the solar and wind power systems are the new resources for the future generations to depend on. But, to my understanding, we are yet to have a better understanding about how sustainable these systems would be. 1. 'What would be the shelf life of these technologies?'; 2. 'If there is a huge adoption of these systems (with and without state support) what are we going to do when these massive installations become redundant?'; 3. 'Will land starved economies be able to have more and more landfill sites laden with the defunct and unusable solar/ wind panels'?; 4. 'Will changing climate patterns affect the resource generation potentials and capacities of the sites that are already established with the solar and wind installations?'. 
1 Recommendation
16th Aug, 2017
Ranko Bozovic
EnPlus
Off course. And big piece is missing: the need for energy can be drastically reduced by utilizing available synergies at a fraction of renewable energy cost. We need serious mind setup change. But we are working on it. First 200 years will be difficult.
1 Recommendation
16th Aug, 2017
Sharada Maligireddy
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Carson City, NV
I agree with Mr. Kenneth. But, since we need to move that mountain anyway, then starting now (even on small scale) would be more prudent - will have enough able minds to recognize and prioritize the need to find a new way of meeting energy needs. If we were to grow up in a rural community (or otherwise)  significant energy needs of which can be met by solar/wind sources, then it won't be that much of a big deal to get the proper perspective on 'limited' nature of traditional energy resources. Also 'trivial' on the ground may actually turn out to be not so trivial for a significant number of families across the globe. Wonder if we would actually be missing out on their significant market/consumer needs factoring in to shape the future technologies & solutions until after they cross that poverty line.
1 Recommendation
16th Aug, 2017
Sharada Maligireddy
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Carson City, NV
Meanwhile, let us just hope we don't find new energy consuming manufacturing needs like we did with saying hi to a neighbor or checking if the fridge needs new milk bottle :)
1 Recommendation

Similar questions and discussions

Is it time we shift emphasis from technological solutions to climate change & focus on the 'Human Dimension'?
Question
6676 answers
  • Raveendra Nath YasarapuRaveendra Nath Yasarapu
Isn't the obvious solution and the elephant-in-the-room 'BETTER HUMAN BEINGS'? Shouldn't the focus be on better human beings rather than better technology? Why is it that everyone wants to develop better technology rather than focus on better humanity? Because no one has the answers and no one wants to change themselves? In environmental degradation, is it not obvious that nature can heal itself, if only left alone, and it is we humans who need regulation? Many natural parks managers do just that; seal off the area from human interference to let nature heal and recover. It is classified as 'Strict Nature Reserve"by IUCN. Complacency and inaction are not advocated here, as many have misunderstood, but the shifting of focus from technology to the human being. As technology is no match for human greed, isn't introspection & restraining ourselves more relevant than developing more technology, which caused the mess in the first place, by making it easy for a few to consume more? Since technology is only a short term quick fix which fails after a short time, isn't the real problem our addiction to material consumption & our lack of understanding about human nature? Isn't developing more technology sustaining the addiction instead of correcting it, leading to more complex problems later on, needing more complex technological quick fixes like higher drug dosages, more ground troops & equipment, (along with their debilitating side effects) in the future? Isn't this the vicious addiction circle we are trapped in? As researchers, do we merely buy more time with technology OR go to the very root of the problem, the human being?
A lot of hue and cry is made about climate change and the environment in general. Public and private money is poured into research to study its effects on the environment, sustainability etc. Should we study nature or ourselves?
" Our studies must begin with our selves and not with the heavens. "-Ouspensky
Human activities have been found to have a direct correlation to climate change and its impact on the environment(I=P x A x T, the Ehrlich and Holdren equation), in spite of what some complacent sections say to protect their own self interests.
We hardly know about Human nature. We can scarcely predict human behavior. We need to find out why we think like we do and why we do what we do and why, in spite of all knowledge and wisdom, consume more than what we need, in the form of addictions to consumption and imbalance not only ourselves but also the family, society and environment around us..
Humanity is directly responsible for all the unnatural imbalances occurring on the planet. Yet we refuse to take responsibility and instead focus on climate change, or fool the public exchequer with a 'breakthrough in renewable energy just around the corner'. We scarcely know what drives human beings. If we had known, all the imbalances around us would have had solutions by now, given the amount of money plowed into finding such solutions. Are we blindly groping in the dark of climate change because we don't know the answers to our own nature?
Is it not high time we focus on what makes us human, correct our consumptive behavior and leave nature to take care of climate change? Why focus effort on 'externals' when the problem is 'internal'- 'me'?
Aren't we addicts denying our addiction and blaming everything else but ourselves?
" We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make the world." - Buddha 
IMHO, We don't need to save the World. It is enough if we save ourselves from ourselves. The need of the hour is not vain glorious interventions, but self-restraint and self-correction!
The Mind is the Final frontier.
How can environmental protection and biodiversity be improved by using current ecological technologies?
Discussion
1514 replies
  • Dariusz ProkopowiczDariusz Prokopowicz
Due to the current civilization progress in recent decades, acceleration of the development of industry, automotive, urban agglomerations, intensification of agricultural production, etc. and related greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, ozone layer depletion in the atecologicalecologicalmosphere, increase of environmental pollution, growing problem of smog in urban agglomerations, the increase in pollution of the seas and oceans to which unsorted waste is thrown away is cut out as part of the predatory economy of tropical forests in the Amazon and other largest natural forest ecosystems.
In addition, the secondary effect of global warming of the Earth's climate is the increasing, more frequent weather anomalies, including drought, leading to steppe and desertification of areas that were previously natural forest ecosystems or areas exploited by agriculture.
As a result of the above-mentioned processes, every year many species of flora and fauna disappear forever.
As a result, natural biodiversity diminishes, which for millions of years evolved evolutionally on Earth.
In this way the natural resources of the planet Earth are irretrievably in decline.
In view of the above, the issue of environmental protection and biodiversity is one of the most important challenges of humanity in the 21st century.
Classical economics must change towards a green economy based on the strategy of sustainable pro-ecological development.
Therefore, I am asking you for the following query:
How can environmental protection and biodiversity be improved by using current ecological technologies?
Please, answer, comments.
I invite you to the discussion.
Best wishes
Scientists Support Ukraine
Discussion
Be the first to reply
  • Ijad MadischIjad Madisch
Like so many, I am shocked and saddened at seeing war break out in Europe. My thoughts – and those of the ResearchGate team – are with the people of Ukraine and everyone affected.
ResearchGate is an international company, whose purpose is to enable scientists across the world to work together openly and collaboratively, regardless of borders or nationality. We have people from over 40 countries on our staff of around 200, and being based in Berlin, we are profoundly aware of the human cost of conflicts, the echoes of which have shaped and scarred our home city. We join with the international community in condemning the actions of the Russian state.
We have been asking ourselves: What can we do?
From today, we will offer free advertising space worth $2.5 million on our network to humanitarian organizations working to respond to the crisis. ResearchGate benefits from over 50 million visitors every month, and we hope this initiative can help raise funds and awareness for those organizations that are having direct impact and need support.
We also want to use our platform to highlight the response from the scientific community. Personally, I have found the messages of support from scientists everywhere to be truly heartfelt, and I would like to highlight some of the community initiatives I’ve seen here:
Additionally, I’m posting here some of the organizations responding to the crisis and actively soliciting donations:
To help gather more support for these initiatives, please consider sharing this post further (you don’t need a ResearchGate account to see it), and I will continue to update it with other initiatives as I find them. You can also click “Recommend” below to help others in your ResearchGate network see it. And if you know of any other community initiatives that we can share here please let us know via this form: https://forms.gle/e37EHouWXFLyhYE8A
-Ijad Madisch, CEO & Co-Founder of ResearchGate
-----
Update 03/07:
This list outlines country-level initiatives from various academic institutions and research organizations, with a focus on programs and sponsorship for Ukrainian researchers:
Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change: "Temporal Paradox" versus "Chronology Protection Conjecture".
Discussion
60 replies
  • Jamel ChahedJamel Chahed
At what time scale should we consider the priority measures to be implemented in order to ensure the protection of natural resources and guarantee their sustainability? (i) direct and urgent measures associated with the modes of exploitation and development of resources ; (ii) indirect and very long-term implications of Climate Change on the potential of resources. Has everything been done on (i) to decree that it is urgent to tackle (ii) head-on with all its uncertainties, particularly with regard to time scales involved, incompatible with the scales of concrete actions?
Is it absurd to assume, like for the evolution of species and their adaptations to natural changes of all kinds, that adaptations and resilience to the effects of climate change should readjust themselves, to changes in natural conditions, which by definition are very slow and loaded with uncertainties?
Moral: what are the urgent actions for scientists, decision-makers, actors, and active civil societies, and on what issues should scientific, technical, and financial resources should be concentrated?
I would be glad to exchange ideas on this important matter. To start the discussion, I will begin by giving some examples from Tunisia (ranked among the countries that suffer the most from lack of water).
Example 1- On the adaptation of Tunisian olive groves to bioclimatic conditions: The olive tree has been cultivated in Tunisia since Roman times under different bioclimatic conditions in exclusively rainfed groves: in the south with less than 250 mm of rainfall and in the north with more than 600 mm [1]. Apart from the different olive tree species in each of the regions, it is clear that the density of olive trees is strictly correlated with rainfall, ranging from 16 olive trees per hectare in the South to nearly a hundred olive trees per hectare in the North; so that it is possible to faithfully superimpose the density map of olive trees on the map of isohyets. Empirically, over millennia and outside of any protocol or procedure, the peasants have naturally adapted to the natural conditions of the environment and it is difficult to imagine that things can be otherwise.
Example 2- On floods and hydraulic disorders: Indigenous, Carthaginian, Roman, and Muslim cities were, without exception, located high up, sheltered from flooding (they were unfortunately not immune to drought). The centrifugal developments of urban agglomerations during the last century have reached flood zones. The transformation of watersheds and the artificialization of the water cycle have increased the concentration of flows so that flooding has become a national plague. What are the urgent actions: (i) to rethink territory development and planning for better resilience to flooding or (ii) tackle the impact of climate change on the frequencies of floods, admittedly real but at much larger time scales which escapes the scales of concrete actions.
Example 3- On groundwater overexploitation and aquifers depletion: Most of the groundwater is subjected to disastrous overexploitation leading to drawdowns and irreversible degradation of water quality. Some aquifers are withdrawn at more than 250% of the average recharge rate and the oases of the South draw on very weakly renewable “fossil” aquifers to produce dates sold at prices ranging between $ 1 and $ 3 (approximately 8 m3 of water are required to produce 1 kg of dates) [2]. Coastal aquifers in the Cap-Bon region are used in the production of citrus fruits sold at less than $ 1 per kg. The aquifers are stressed to such an extent that marine intrusion has, in some cases, resulted in definitive depletion of the resource. If the decision-makers and the scientific community do not put urgently all their human and material resources and all the scientific and technical means, to solve this nagging problem; well, the time needed to define and put in place measures of resilience and adaptation to the hypothetical effects of Climate Change on groundwater recharge will be more than enough for the squandering of these resources to be total and definitive as it is already the case of certain coastal aquifers.
[2](4) National Water Security, Case Study of an Arid Country: Tunisia | Request PDF (researchgate.net).

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