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What Is Sustainability?

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This video provides a basic definition of sustainability. You’ve probably heard the term “sustainability” in some context or another. It is likely that you’ve used some product or service that was labeled as sustainable, or perhaps you are aware of a campus or civic organization that focuses on sustainability. You may recognize that sustainability has to do with preserving or maintaining resources—we often associate sustainability with things like recycling, using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, and preserving natural spaces like rainforests and coral reefs. However, unless you have an inherent interest in sustainability, you probably haven’t thought much about what the term actually means. Simply put, sustainability is the capacity to endure or continue. If a product or activity is sustainable, it can be reused, recycled, or repeated in some way because it has not exhausted all of the resources or energy required to create it. Sustainability can be broadly defined as the ability of something to maintain itself. Biological systems such as wetlands or forests are good examples of sustainability since they remain diverse and productive over long periods of time. Seen in this way, sustainability has to do with preserving resources and energy over the long term rather than exhausting them quickly to meet short-term needs or goals. The term sustainability first appeared in forestry studies in Germany in the 1800s, when forest overseers began to manage timber harvesting for continued use as a resource. In 1804, German forestry researcher Georg Hartig described sustainability as “utilizing forests to the greatest possible extent, but still in a way that future generations will have as much benefit as the living generation” (Schmutzenhofer 1992). While our current definitions are quite different and much expanded from Hartig’s, sustainability still accounts for the need to preserve natural spaces, to use resources wisely, and to maintain them in an equitable manner for all human beings, both now and in the future. Sustainability seeks new ways of addressing the relationship between societal growth and environmental degradation, which would allow human societies and economies to grow without destroying or overexploiting the environment or ecosystems in which those societies exist. The most widely quoted definition of sustainability comes from the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations in 1987, which defined sustainability as meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” But sustainability is about more than just the economic benefits of recycling materials and resources. While the economic factors are important, sustainability also accounts for the social and environmental consequences of human activity. This concept is referred to as the “three pillars of sustainability,” which asserts that true sustainability depends upon three interlocking factors: environmental preservation, social equity, and economic viability. First, sustainable human activities must protect the earth’s environment. Second, people and communities must be treated fairly and equally—particularly in regard to eradicating global poverty and the environmental exploitation of poor countries and communities. And third, sustainability must be economically feasible—human development depends upon the long-term production, use, and management of resources as part of a global economy. Only when all three of these pillars are incorporated can an activity or enterprise be described as sustainable. Some describe this three-part model as: Planet, People and Profit. From pollution, to resource depletion, to loss of biodiversity, to climate change, a growing human footprint is evident. This is not sustainable. We need to act differently if the world and its human and non-human inhabitants are to thrive in the future. Sustainability is about how we can preserve the earth and ensure the continued survival and nourishment of future generations. You and everyone you know will be affected in some way by the choices our society makes in the future regarding the earth and its resources. In fact, your very life may well depend upon those choices. For more information about sustainability, see: http://www.macmillanhighered.com/Catalog/product/sustainability-firstedition-weisser This video is available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Text Comments (26)
Sharmeen (6 months ago)
I find sustainability to be a very emotional topic, especially after watching this video. It is sad how the limited resources we have in this world are decreasing, while demands are increasing. It's sad because, for example, here in Pakistan, many miners have to mine without proper equipment and health facilities, resulting in deaths or lives filled with despair. Yet we waste all the materials someone must have struggled alot to help us get it to us. This happens everywhere, such as wasting water. Millions of currencies are spent to ensure that us humans are drinking safe and pure water, and also the water we use in general to be clean, yet we waste it. Water is limited. It's very sad. I feel so guilty after watching this video. I hope to live in a world where everyone ensures to sustain the resources they possess.
Devendra Yaduvanshi (7 months ago)
It's good.thanx
Georgia BAMFORD (8 months ago)
very specific, but you could still understand it perfectly, which is a good thing! I understand now! i can finally try and past part of my biology test
IEREK PRESS (9 months ago)
Publish your conference proceedings Publish your conference proceedings with IEREK Press. IEREK Press is currently specialized in publishing conference proceedings in 3 separate journals and 2 languages, English and Arabic. You may also benefit from publishing a select few of the best selected research papers submitted to your conference The International Journal of Environmental Science and Sustainable Development (ESSD). http://www.ierek.com/press/index.php/ESSD
IEREK PRESS (9 months ago)
Improving Sustainability Concept in Developing Countries – 3rd Edition In addition, this conference emphasizes on using energy performance simulation in the design process of sustainable architecture. Using simulation tools facilitates achieving accurate and new results for studying energy consumption in buildings for both new and existing buildings as well. Architects, planners, environmentalism, engineers, universities, decision makers and stakeholders all are invited to participate and contribute in this conference in order to exchange knowledge and experience in one place. This will be great meeting that works in order to evolve our built environment and also update new approaches that contribute in improving sustainability in developing different communities. https://www.ierek.com/events/improving-sustainability-concept-in-developing-countries-3rd-version#introduction _ Ierek channel
basanta poon (9 months ago)
Nathanb22pro (10 months ago)
Happy Mosha (9 months ago)
Appreciate it
anne paula (10 months ago)
Sustainable management – sustainable life https://youtu.be/vz-6KNb7Eyw?t=8
David Canatella (11 months ago)
Growth is not sustainable. Alumium cans show the unsustainable track our culture lives by. A human's need is employment since they need food, water, clothes, and shelter. This is job one for every person. Built in basic employment. An over indulgent culture secures its own end.
Michael Price (21 days ago)
Thank you for that unsupported assertion.
Georgia BAMFORD (8 months ago)
growth is. it is so we dont have to get in our car buy griceries (in plastic) and then put them in plastic bags and drve home again and maybe get some petrol on the way!
DFlute07 Challita (1 year ago)
had everything i needed
Wondermass (1 year ago)
Can we clean the oceans? https://youtu.be/_ElHAJetSnA
faiza rafique (1 year ago)
Krishna Patel (1 year ago)
Interesting video
JOSHAWESOME342 (2 years ago)
Subscribe to Joshawesome342
Alev Baskaya (2 years ago)
It's good, thanks
Obed Kibitok (1 year ago)
Alev Baskaya nice
SANJAYA ROUT (2 years ago)
very nice and good
Football FREAK!!! (2 years ago)
there should be some changes
Football FREAK!!! (2 years ago)
Thomas Spiegel (3 years ago)
A very interesting sight on sustainability. This video shows and describes the concept of sustainability form the very beginning in the 19th century to nowaday concerns. Even the Bruntland Report is mentioned which stands for the modern understanding of sustainability. I will show this video to my highschool students in Austria. They will benefit from the clear and comprehensive speeche and the thoroughly explanation of sustainablity. Thomas, Austria

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