Friday, August 25, 2006

Defining Sustainability

For those of you who are not sure what exactly sustainability is, I have listed some well known definitions. I should note that there is no single concrete definition of the word and is open to interpretation depending on its application.

This is the most commonly quoted definition and it aims to be more comprehensive than most
Brundtland (1987): Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable Agriculture:
Harwood (1990):
Sustainable agriculture is a system that can evolve indefinitely toward greater human utility, greater efficiency of resource use and a balance with the environment which is which is favourable to humans and most other species.

Conway & Barbier (1990):
Agricultural sustainability is the ability to maintain productivity, whether as a field or farm or nation. Where productivity is the output of valued product per unit of resource input.

Sustainable Development:
Pearce, Makandia & Barbier (1989):
Sustainable development involves devising a social and economic system, which ensures that these goals are sustained, i.e. that real incomes rise, that educational standards increase, that the health of the nation improves, that the general quality of life is advanced.

IUCN, UNEP, WWF (1991):
Sustainable development, sustainable growth, and sustainable use have been used interchangeably, as if their meanings were the same. They are not. Sustainable growth is a contradiction in terms: nothing physical can grow indefinitely. Sustainable use, is only applicable to renewable resources. Sustainable development is used in this strategy to mean: improving the quality of human life whilst living within the carrying capacity of the ecosystems.

Holdgate (1993):
Development is about realising resource potential, Sustainable development of renewable natural resources implies respecting limits to the development process, even though these limits are adjustable by technology. The sustainability of technology may be judged by whether it increases production, but retains it other environmental and other limits.

Pearce (1993):
Sustainable development is concerned with the development of a society where the costs of development are not transferred to future generations, or at least an attempt is made to compensate for such costs.

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