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Sustainability is the process of maintaining change in a fashion, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. For many in the field, sustainability is defined through the following interconnected domains or pillars: environment, economic and social. Sub-domains of sustainable development have been considered also: cultural, technological and political.; While sustainable development may be the organizing principle for sustainability for some, for others, the two terms are paradoxical (i.e. development is inherently unsustainable). Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Brundtland Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) introduced the term of sustainable development.

Sustainability can also be defined as a socio-ecological process characterized by the pursuit of a common ideal.

(2015). 9781516901784, Amazon. .
An ideal is by definition unattainable in a given time and space. However, by persistently and dynamically approaching it, the process results in a sustainable system.

Healthy ecosystems and environments are necessary to the survival of humans and other . Ways of reducing negative human impact are environmentally-friendly chemical engineering, environmental resources management and environmental protection. Information is gained from , , , environmental science and conservation biology. Ecological economics studies the fields of academic research that aim to address human economies and natural ecosystems.Bakari, Mohamed El-Kamel. The Dilemma of Sustainability

Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national , and , local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganizing living conditions (e.g., , eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (, , sustainable agriculture), or work practices (sustainable architecture), using science to develop new technologies (green technologies, and sustainable fission and ), or designing systems in a flexible and reversible manner, and adjusting individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources.

"The term 'sustainability' should be viewed as humanity's target goal of human-ecosystem equilibrium (homeostasis), while 'sustainable development' refers to the holistic approach and temporal processes that lead us to the end point of sustainability." (305) Despite the increased popularity of the use of the term "sustainability", the possibility that human societies will achieve environmental sustainability has been, and continues to be, questioned—in light of environmental degradation, , , population growth and societies' pursuit of unlimited in a . State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? Strong sustainable consumption governance — precondition for a degrowth path?

The name sustainability is derived from the sustinere ( tenere, to hold; sub, under). Sustain can mean "maintain", "support", or "endure".Onions, Charles, T. (ed) (1964). The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: . p. 2095. Since the 1980s sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth and this has resulted in the most widely quoted definition of sustainability as a part of the concept sustainable development, that of the Brundtland Commission of the on March 20, 1987: "sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".United Nations General Assembly (1987) Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. Transmitted to the General Assembly as an Annex to document A/42/427 – Development and International Co-operation: Environment. Retrieved on: 2009-02-15..


Three dimensions of sustainability
The 2005 World Summit on Social Development identified sustainable development goals, such as economic development, social development and environmental protection.United Nations General Assembly (2005). 2005 World Summit Outcome, Resolution A/60/1, adopted by the General Assembly on 15 September 2005. Retrieved on: 2009-02-17. This view has been expressed as an illustration using three overlapping ellipses indicating that the three pillars of sustainability are not mutually exclusive and can be mutually reinforcing.Forestry Commission of Great Britain. Sustainability. Retrieved on: 2009-03-09 In fact, the three pillars are interdependent, and in the long run none can exist without the others. The three pillars have served as a common ground for numerous sustainability standards and certification systems in recent years, in particular in the food industry.Manning, S., Boons, F., Von Hagen, O., Reinecke, J. (2011). "National Contexts Matter: The Co-Evolution of Sustainability Standards in Global Value Chains." Ecological Economics, Forthcoming.Reinecke, J., Manning, S., Von Hagen, O. (2012). "The Emergence of a Standards Market: Multiplicity of Sustainability Standards in the Global Coffee Industry" Organization Studies, Forthcoming. Standards which today explicitly refer to the triple bottom line include Rainforest Alliance, and .SAI Platform 2010. Sustainability Indicators . Sustainable Agricultural Initiative. Retrieved on: 2011-09-04.Alvarez, G. Sustainable Agriculture and Value networks. Lausanne, Switzerland: Latitude. Retrieved on: 2011-10-04. Some sustainability experts and practitioners have illustrated four pillars of sustainability, or a quadruple bottom line. One such pillar is future generations, which emphasizes the long-term thinking associated with sustainability.SURF Framework for a Sustainable Economy (2013). Journal of Management and Sustainability, Retrieved on: 2015-25-01. There is also an opinion that considers resource use and financial sustainability as two additional pillars of sustainability.
(2018). 9780784411674, American Society of Civil Engineers.

Sustainable development consists of balancing local and global efforts to meet basic human needs without destroying or degrading the natural environment.International Institute for Sustainable Development (2009). What is Sustainable Development?. Retrieved on: 2009-02-18. The question then becomes how to represent the relationship between those needs and the environment.

A study from 2005 pointed out that environmental justice is as important as sustainable development. Ecological economist asked, "what use is a sawmill without a forest?"Daly, H. & J. Cobb (1989). For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future. Boston: Beacon Press. . From this perspective, the economy is a subsystem of human society, which is itself a subsystem of the biosphere, and a gain in one sector is a loss from another.Porritt, J. (2006). Capitalism as if the world mattered. London: . p. 46. . This perspective led to the nested circles figure of 'economics' inside 'society' inside the 'environment'.

The simple definition that sustainability is something that improves "the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems",//WWF (1991). "Caring for the Earth: A Strategy for Sustainable Living." Gland, Switzerland. Retrieved on: 2009-03-29. though vague, conveys the idea of sustainability having quantifiable limits. But sustainability is also a call to action, a task in progress or "journey" and therefore a political process, so some definitions set out common goals and values. The The Earth Charter Initiative (2000). "The Earth Charter." Retrieved on: 2009-04-05. speaks of "a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace". This suggested a more complex figure of sustainability, which included the importance of the domain of 'politics'.

More than that, sustainability implies responsible and proactive decision-making and innovation that minimizes negative impact and maintains balance between ecological resilience, economic prosperity, political justice and cultural vibrancy to ensure a desirable planet for all species now and in the future. Specific types of sustainability include, sustainable agriculture, sustainable architecture or ecological economics. Understanding sustainable development is important but without clear targets an unfocused term like "liberty" or "justice".Blewitt, J. (2008). Understanding Sustainable Development. London: Earthscan. pp. 21–24. . It has also been described as a "dialogue of values that challenge the sociology of development".

Circles of sustainability and the fourth dimension of sustainability
While the United Nations Millennium Declaration identified principles and treaties on sustainable development, including economic development, social development and environmental protection it continued using three domains: economics, environment and social sustainability. More recently, using a systematic domain model that responds to the debates over the last decade, the Circles of Sustainability approach distinguished four domains of economic, ecological, political and cultural sustainability; this in accord with the , , Agenda 21, and in particular the Agenda 21 for culture which specifies culture as the fourth domain of sustainable development.United Cites and Local Governments, "Culture: Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development". The model is now being used by organizations such as the United Nations Cities Programme Circles of Sustainability. and Metropolis. World Association of the Major Metropolises, Metropolis. Retrieved on 2016-03-13. In the case of Metropolis, this approach does not mean adding a fourth domain of culture to the dominant triple bottom line figure of the economy, environment and the social. Rather, it involves treating all four domains—economy, ecology, politics and culture—as social (including economics) and distinguishing between ecology (as the intersection of the human and natural worlds) and environment as that which goes far beyond what we as humans can ever know. Metropolis Action Plan 2018-2020, at

Seven modalities
Another model suggests humans attempt to achieve all of their needs and aspirations via seven modalities: economy, community, occupational groups, government, environment, culture, and physiology.Thomas, Steve A. (2016). The Nature of Sustainability. Chapbook Press. Grand Rapids, Michigan. . From the global to the individual human scale, each of the seven modalities can be viewed across seven hierarchical levels. Human sustainability can be achieved by attaining sustainability in all levels of the seven modalities.

Shaping the future
Integral elements of sustainability are research and innovation activities. A telling example is the European environmental research and innovation policy. It aims at defining and implementing a transformative agenda to greening the economy and the society as a whole so to make them sustainable. Research and innovation in Europe are financially supported by the programme Horizon 2020, which is also open to participation worldwide. See Horizon 2020 – the EU's new research and innovation programme Encouraging good farming practices ensures farmers fully benefit from the environment and at the same time conserving it for future generations. Additionally, instigating innovative and sustainable travel and transportation solutions must play a vital role in this process.

in ecology is the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic structure and viability. Resilience-thinking evolved from the need to manage interactions between human-constructed systems and natural ecosystems in a sustainable way despite the fact that to a definition remains elusive. Resilience-thinking addresses how much planetary ecological systems can withstand assault from human disturbances and still deliver the service's current and future generations need from them. It is also concerned with commitment from policymakers to promote and manage essential planetary ecological resources in order to promote resilience and achieve sustainability of these essential resources for benefit of future generations of life?Brian Walker and David Salt, Resilience Practice: Building Capacity to Absorb Disturbance and Maintain Function. Island Press, 2012. The resiliency of an ecosystem, and thereby, its sustainability, can be reasonably measured at or events where the combination of occurring regenerative forces (, water, soil, , vegetation, and ) interact with the energy released into the ecosystem from disturbances.Ben Falk, The resilient farm and homestead. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013, p. 3.

A practical view of sustainability is that maintain processes of indefinitely by replacing resources used by actions of people with resources of equal or greater value by those same people without degrading or endangering natural biotic systems.Melvin K. Hendrix, Sustainable Backyard Polyculture: Designing for ecological resiliency. Smashwords Edition, 2014. In this way, sustainability can be concretely measured in human projects if there is a transparent accounting of the resources put back into the ecosystem to replace those displaced. In nature, the accounting occurs naturally through a process of as an ecosystem returns to from an external disturbance. The adaptation is a multi-stage process that begins with the disturbance event (earthquake, volcanic eruption, hurricane, tornado, flood, or thunderstorm), followed by , , or of the or energies that the external forces created.Brian Walker and David Salt, Resilience Thinking: Sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world. Island Press, 2006. p. xiii; Crawford S. Holling, Adaptive environmental assessment and management. Wiley, 1978. p. 11.

In analysing systems such as urban and national parks, dams, farms and gardens, theme parks, open-pit mines, water catchments, one way to look at the relationship between sustainability and resiliency is to view the former with a long-term vision and resiliency as the capacity of human engineers to respond to immediate environmental events.Walker and Salt, Ibid.

The history of sustainability traces human-dominated systems from the earliest to the present day.Caradonna, Jeremy L. (2014) Sustainability: A History. Oxford University Press, This history is characterized by the increased regional success of a particular , followed by crises that were either resolved, producing sustainability, or not, leading to decline. (2004). A Short History of Progress. Toronto: Anansi. .

In early human history, the use of fire and desire for specific foods may have altered the natural composition of plant and animal communities.Scholars, R. (2003). Stories from the Stone Age. Beyond Productions in association with S4C and S4C International. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved on: 2009-04-16. Between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, agrarian communities emerged which depended largely on their environment and the creation of a "structure of permanence."Clarke, W. C. (1977). "The Structure of Permanence: The Relevance of Self-Subsistence Communities for World Ecosystem Management," in Subsistence and Survival: Rural Ecology in the Pacific. Bayliss-Smith, T. and R. Feachem (eds). London: Academic Press, pp. 363–384.

The Western industrial revolution of the 18th to 19th centuries tapped into the vast growth potential of the energy in . was used to power ever more efficient engines and later to generate electricity. Modern systems and advances in medicine protected large populations from disease.Hilgenkamp, K. (2005). Environmental Health: Ecological Perspectives. London: Jones & Bartlett. . In the mid-20th century, a gathering environmental movement pointed out that there were environmental costs associated with the many material benefits that were now being enjoyed. In the late 20th century, environmental problems became global in scale.Meadows, D.H., D.L. Meadows, J. Randers, and W. Behrens III. (1972). The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books. .World Wide Fund for Nature (2008). Living Planet Report 2008. Retrieved on: 2009-03-29.Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC. pp. 1–85. Retrieved on: 2009-07-08-01. The 1973 and 1979 demonstrated the extent to which the global community had become dependent on non-renewable energy resources.

In the 21st century, there is increasing global awareness of the threat posed by the human greenhouse effect, produced largely by forest clearing and the burning of fossil fuels.U.S. Department of Commerce. Carbon Cycle Science. NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory. Retrieved on: 2009-03-14BBC News (August 2008). In depth: "Climate Change." BBC News, UK. Retrieved on: 2009-03-14

Principles and concepts
The philosophical and analytic framework of sustainability draws on and connects with many different disciplines and fields; in recent years an area that has come to be called sustainability science has emerged.Kates, Robert W., ed. (2010). Readings in Sustainability Science and Technology – an introduction to the key literatures of sustainability science CID Working Paper No. 213. Center for International Development, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, December 2010.

Scale and context
Sustainability is studied and managed over many scales (levels or frames of reference) of time and space and in many contexts of environmental, social and economic organization. The focus ranges from the total carrying capacity (sustainability) of planet Earth to the sustainability of economic sectors, ecosystems, countries, municipalities, neighbourhoods, home gardens, individual lives, individual goods and services, occupations, lifestyles, behaviour patterns and so on. In short, it can entail the full compass of biological and human activity or any part of it.Conceptual Framework Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2003). "Ecosystems and Human Well-being." London: . Chapter 5. "Dealing with Scale". pp. 107–124. . As Daniel Botkin, author and environmentalist, has stated: "We see a landscape that is always in flux, changing over many scales of time and space."Botkin, D.B. (1990). Discordant Harmonies, a New Ecology for the 21st century. New York: Oxford University Press. .

The sheer size and complexity of the planetary ecosystem has proved problematic for the design of practical measures to reach global sustainability. To shed light on the big picture, explorer and sustainability campaigner Jason Lewis has drawn parallels to other, more tangible . For example, he likens human existence on Earth — isolated as the planet is in space, whereby people cannot be evacuated to relieve population pressure and resources cannot be imported to prevent accelerated depletion of resources — to life at sea on a small boat isolated by water. In both cases, he argues, exercising the precautionary principle is a key factor in survival.Lewis, Jason " The Seed Buried Deep (The Expedition Trilogy, part 2)" BillyFish Books, December 2013.

A major driver of human impact on Earth systems is the destruction of , and especially, the Earth's ecosystems. The environmental impact of a community or of humankind as a whole depends both on population and impact per person, which in turn depends in complex ways on what resources are being used, whether or not those resources are renewable, and the scale of the human activity relative to the carrying capacity of the ecosystems involved. Careful resource management can be applied at many scales, from economic sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and industry, to work organizations, the consumption patterns of households and individuals and to the resource demands of individual goods and services.Clark, D. (2006). A Rough Guide to Ethical Living. London: Penguin. Brower, M. & Leon, W. (1999). The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. New York: Three Rivers Press. .

One of the initial attempts to express human impact mathematically was developed in the 1970s and is called the formula. This formulation attempts to explain human consumption in terms of three components: numbers, levels of consumption (which it terms "affluence", although the usage is different), and impact per unit of resource use (which is termed "technology", because this impact depends on the used). The equation is expressed:

::::::: I = P × A × T

:: Where: I = Environmental impact, P = Population, A = Affluence, T = Technology

In recent years, concepts based on (re-)cycling resources are increasingly gaining importance. The most prominent among these concepts might be the , with its comprehensive support by the Chinese and the European Union. There is also a broad range of similar concepts or schools of thought, including cradle-to-cradle laws of ecology, looped and performance economy, regenerative design, industrial ecology, biomimicry, and the blue economy. These concepts seem intuitively to be more sustainable than the current linear economic system. The reduction of resource inputs into and waste and emission leakage out of the system reduces resource depletion and environmental pollution. However, these simple assumptions are not sufficient to deal with the involved systemic complexity and disregards potential trade-offs. For example, the social dimension of sustainability seems to be only marginally addressed in many publications on the Circular Economy, and there are cases that require different or additional strategies, like purchasing new, more energy efficient equipment. A review of a team of researchers from Cambridge and TU Delft identified eight different relationship types between sustainability and the circular economy, namely a (1) conditional relation, a (2) strong conditional relation, a (3) necessary but not sufficient conditional relation, a (4) beneficial relationship a (structured and unstructured) (5) subset relation, a (6) degree relation, a (7) cost-benefit/trade-off relation, and a (8) selective relation.

Sustainability measurement is the quantitative basis for the informed management of sustainability. The metrics used for the measurement of sustainability (involving the sustainability of environmental, social and economic domains, both individually and in various combinations) are evolving: they include indicators, benchmarks, audits, sustainability standards and certification systems like and Organic, indexes and accounting, as well as assessment, appraisalDalal-Clayton, Barry and Sadler, Barry 2009. Sustainability Appraisal: A Sourcebook and Reference Guide to International Experience. London: Earthscan. . and other reporting systems. They are applied over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.Hak, T. et al. (2007). Sustainability Indicators, SCOPE 67. London: Island Press. .Bell, Simon and Morse, Stephen 2008. Sustainability Indicators. Measuring the Immeasurable? 2nd edn. London: Earthscan. .

Some of the best known and most widely used sustainability measures include corporate sustainability reporting, Triple Bottom Line accounting, World Sustainability Society, Circles of Sustainability, and estimates of the quality of sustainability governance for individual countries using the Environmental Sustainability Index and Environmental Performance Index.

Companies such as Lieef ( have started reporting ESG metrics on behalf of companies, and investment funds, in an effort to increase transparency through patenting pending technology that measures emissions from a gross to net basis.

According to the most recent (July 2015) revision of the official United Nations World Population Prospects, the is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, up from the current 7.3 billion (July 2015), to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, and to reach 11.2 billion by the year 2100. Most of the increase will be in developing countries whose population is projected to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050. This increase will be distributed among the population aged 15–59 (1.2 billion) and 60 or over (1.1 billion) because the number of children under age 15 in developing countries is predicted to decrease. In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to undergo only slight increase from 1.23 billion to 1.28 billion, and this would have declined to 1.15 billion but for a projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is expected to average 2.4 million persons annually from 2009 to 2050.United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2009). "World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision." Highlights. Retrieved on: 2009-04-06. Long-term estimates in 2004 of global population suggest a peak at around 2070 of nine to ten billion people, and then a slow decrease to 8.4 billion by 2100.Lutz W., Sanderson W.C., & Scherbov S. (2004). The End of World Population Growth in the 21st Century London: Earthscan. .

Emerging economies like those of China and India aspire to the living standards of the Western world as does the non-industrialized world in general." Booming nations 'threaten Earth'". BBC News. January 12, 2006. It is the combination of population increase in the developing world and unsustainable consumption levels in the developed world that poses a stark challenge to sustainability.Cohen, J.E. (2006). "Human Population: The Next Half Century." In Kennedy D. (Ed.) "Science Magazine's State of the Planet 2006-7". London: Island Press, pp. 13–21. .

Carrying capacity
At the global scale, scientific data now indicates that humans are living beyond the carrying capacity of planet Earth and that this cannot continue indefinitely. This scientific evidence comes from many sources but is presented in detail in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the planetary boundaries framework.Garver G (2011) "A Framework for Novel and Adaptive Governance Approaches Based on Planetary Boundaries" Colorado State University, Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance, 17–20 May 2011. An early detailed examination of global limits was published in the 1972 book Limits to Growth, which has prompted follow-up commentary and analysis.Turner, Graham (2008) "A comparison of The Limits to Growth with thirty years of reality" Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation () Sustainable Ecosystems. A 2012 review in Nature by 22 international researchers expressed concerns that the Earth may be "approaching a state shift" in its biosphere.

The Ecological footprint measures human consumption in terms of the biologically productive land needed to provide the resources, and absorb the wastes of the average global citizen. In 2008 it required 2.7 per person, 30% more than the natural biological capacity of 2.1 global hectares (assuming no provision for other organisms). The resulting ecological deficit must be met from unsustainable extra sources and these are obtained in three ways: embedded in the goods and services of world trade; taken from the past (e.g. ); or borrowed from the future as unsustainable resource usage (e.g. by forests and fisheries).

The figure (right) examines sustainability at the scale of individual countries by contrasting their Ecological Footprint with their UN Human Development Index (a measure of standard of living). The graph shows what is necessary for countries to maintain an acceptable standard of living for their citizens while, at the same time, maintaining sustainable resource use. The general trend is for higher standards of living to become less sustainable. As always, population growth has a marked influence on levels of consumption and the efficiency of resource use.Adams & Jeanrenaud (2008) p. 45. The sustainability goal is to raise the global standard of living without increasing the use of resources beyond globally sustainable levels; that is, to not exceed "one planet" consumption. Information generated by reports at the national, regional and city scales confirm the global trend towards societies that are becoming less sustainable over time.UNEP Grid Arendal. A selection of global-scale reports. Retrieved on: 2009-3-12Global Footprint Network. (2008). "Living Planet Report." Retrieved on: 2008-10-01.

Romanian American economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, a progenitor in and a paradigm founder of ecological economics, has argued that the carrying capacity of Earth — that is, Earth's capacity to sustain human populations and consumption levels — is bound to decrease sometime in the future as Earth's finite stock of mineral resources is presently being extracted and put to use.

(1971). 9780674257801, Harvard University Press. .
Leading ecological economist and steady-state theorist , a student of Georgescu-Roegen, has propounded the same argument.
(1980). 9780716711780, W.H. Freeman and Company. .

At the enterprise scale, carrying capacity now also plays a critical role in making it possible to measure and report the sustainability performance of individual organizations. This is most clearly demonstrated through use of Context-Based Sustainability (CBS) tools, methods and metrics, including the MultiCapital Scorecard, which have been in development since 2005.

(2018). 9780615242743, University of Groningen. .
(2018). 9781603586900, Chelsea Green Publishing.
Contrary to many other mainstream approaches to measuring the sustainability performance of organizations – which tend to be more incrementalist in form – CBS is explicitly tied to social, environmental and economic limits and thresholds in the world. Thus, rather than simply measure and report changes in relative terms from one period to another, CBS makes it possible to compare the impacts of organizations to organization-specific norms, standards or thresholds for what they (the impacts) would have to be in order to be empirically sustainable (i.e., which if generalized to a larger population would not fail to maintain the sufficiency of vital resources for human or non-human well-being).
(2018). 9781844079117, Earthscan.

Global human impact on biodiversity
At a fundamental level, energy flow and biogeochemical cycling set an upper limit on the number and mass of organisms in any ecosystem.Krebs (2001) p. 513. Human impacts on the Earth are demonstrated in a general way through detrimental changes in the global biogeochemical cycles of chemicals that are critical to life, most notably those of , , , and .Smil, V. (2000). Cycles of Life. New York: Scientific American Library. .

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an international synthesis by over 1000 of the world's leading biological scientists that analyzes the state of the Earth's and provides summaries and guidelines for decision-makers. It concludes that human activity is having a significant and escalating impact on the biodiversity of world , reducing both their resilience and . The report refers to natural systems as humanity's "life-support system", providing essential "ecosystem services". The assessment measures 24 ecosystem services concluding that only four have shown improvement over the last 50 years, 15 are in serious decline, and five are in a precarious condition.Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, pp. 6–19.

Sustainable development goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the current harmonized set of seventeen future international development targets.

The Official Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on 25 September 2015 has 92 paragraphs, with the main paragraph (51) outlining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its associated 169 targets. This included the following seventeen goals:

  1. Poverty – End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. Food – End hunger, achieve and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Health – Ensure healthy lives and promote for all at all ages
  4. Education – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Women – Achieve and all women and girls
  6. Water – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Energy – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Economy – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and for all
  9. Infrastructure – Build resilient , promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster
  10. Inequality – Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Habitation – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Consumption – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Climate – Take urgent action to combat and its impacts, ensuring that both mitigation and adaptation strategies are in placed
  14. Marine-ecosystems – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine for sustainable development
  15. Ecosystems – Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial , sustainably manage forests, combat , and halt and reverse and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Institutions – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Sustainability – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

As of August 2015, there were 169 proposed targets for these goals and 304 proposed indicators to show compliance.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expired at the end of 2015. The MDGs were established in 2000 following the Millennium Summit of the . Adopted by the 189 United Nations member states at the time and more than twenty international organizations, these goals were advanced to help achieve the following sustainable development standards by 2015.

  1. To eradicate
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote and empower women
  4. To reduce
  5. To improve
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, , and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability (one of the targets in this goal focuses on increasing sustainable access to safe and basic )
  8. To develop a global partnership for development

Sustainable development
According to the data that member countries represented to the , was the only country in the world in 2006 that met the World Wide Fund for Nature's definition of sustainable development, with an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita, 1.5, and a Human Development Index of over 0.8, 0.855.Fanelli, Daniele (3 October 2007) World failing on sustainable development. NewScientist

Environmental dimension
Healthy ecosystems provide vital goods and services to humans and other organisms. There are two major ways of reducing negative human impact and enhancing ecosystem services and the first of these is environmental management. This direct approach is based largely on information gained from , environmental science and conservation biology. However, this is management at the end of a long series of indirect causal factors that are initiated by human consumption, so a second approach is through demand management of human resource use.

Management of human consumption of resources is an indirect approach based largely on information gained from . Herman Daly has suggested three broad criteria for ecological sustainability: renewable resources should provide a sustainable yield (the rate of harvest should not exceed the rate of regeneration); for non-renewable resources there should be equivalent development of renewable substitutes; waste generation should not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment.

Environmental management
At the global scale and in the broadest sense environmental management involves the , systems, land and , but following the sustainability principle of scale it can be equally applied to any ecosystem from a tropical rainforest to a home garden.Buchenrieder, G., und A.R. Göltenboth: Sustainable freshwater resource management in the Tropics: The myth of effective indicators, 25th International Conference of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) on "Reshaping Agriculture's Contributions to Society" in Durban, South Africa, 2003.

At a March 2009 meeting of the Copenhagen Climate Council, 2,500 climate experts from 80 countries issued a keynote statement that there is now "no excuse" for failing to act on global warming and that without strong carbon reduction "abrupt or irreversible" shifts in climate may occur that "will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with".University of Copenhagen (March 2009) "Key Messages from the Congress" News item on Copenhagen Climate Congress in March 2009. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.Adams, D. (March 2009) "Stern attacks politicians over climate 'devastation'". The Guardian. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18. Management of the global atmosphere now involves assessment of all aspects of the to identify opportunities to address human-induced and this has become a major focus of scientific research because of the potential catastrophic effects on biodiversity and human communities (see below).

Other human impacts on the atmosphere include the in cities, the including toxic chemicals like , , volatile organic compounds and airborne particulate matter that produce photochemical smog and , and the chlorofluorocarbons that degrade the . Anthropogenic particulates such as sulfate in the atmosphere reduce the direct and reflectance () of the 's surface. Known as , the decrease is estimated to have been about 4% between 1960 and 1990 although the trend has subsequently reversed. Global dimming may have disturbed the global by reducing evaporation and rainfall in some areas. It also creates a cooling effect and this may have partially masked the effect of on .Hegerl, G.C. et al. (2007). "Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis." Chapter 9, "Understanding and Attributing Climate Change." Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. p. 676. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Full report IPCC Report. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.

Freshwater and oceans
Water covers 71% of the Earth's surface. Of this, 97.5% is the salty water of the and only 2.5% freshwater, most of which is locked up in the Antarctic ice sheet. The remaining freshwater is found in glaciers, lakes, rivers, wetlands, the soil, aquifers and atmosphere. Due to the water cycle, fresh water supply is continually replenished by precipitation, however there is still a limited amount necessitating management of this resource. Awareness of the global importance of preserving water for ecosystem services has only recently emerged as, during the 20th century, more than half the world's have been lost along with their valuable environmental services. Increasing pollutes clean water supplies and much of the world still does not have access to clean, safe water.Clarke & King (2006) pp. 20–21. Greater emphasis is now being placed on the improved management of blue (harvestable) and green (soil water available for plant use) water, and this applies at all scales of water management.Hoekstra, A.Y. (2006). "The Global Dimension of Water Governance: Nine Reasons for Global Arrangements in Order to Cope with Local Problems." Value of Water Research Report Series No. 20 UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.

circulation patterns have a strong influence on and and, in turn, the food supply of both humans and other organisms. Scientists have warned of the possibility, under the influence of climate change, of a sudden alteration in circulation patterns of that could drastically alter the climate in some regions of the globe. Ten per cent of the world's population—about 600 million people—live in low-lying areas vulnerable to sea level rise.

Land use

Loss of biodiversity stems largely from the habitat loss and fragmentation produced by the human appropriation of land for development, forestry and agriculture as is progressively converted to man-made capital. Land use change is fundamental to the operations of the because alterations in the relative proportions of land dedicated to , , , , and have a marked effect on the global water, carbon and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles and this can impact negatively on both natural and human systems.Krebs (2001) pp. 560–582. At the local human scale, major sustainability benefits accrue from sustainable parks and gardens and . Organic Gardening Techniques, Missouri University Extension. October 2004. Retrieved June 17, 2009. Sustainable Gardening & Food Production , Daniel Boone Regional Library. Retrieved June 17, 2009

Since the Neolithic Revolution about 47% of the world's forests have been lost to human use. Present-day forests occupy about a quarter of the world's ice-free land with about half of these occurring in the tropics.World Resources Institute (1998). World Resources 1998–1999. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . In temperate and boreal regions forest area is gradually increasing (with the exception of Siberia), but in the tropics is of major concern.Groombridge, B. & Jenkins, M.D. (2002). World Atlas of Biodiversity. Berkeley: University of California Press. .

is essential to life. Feeding more than seven billion human bodies takes a heavy toll on the Earth's resources. This begins with the appropriation of about 38% of the Earth's land surfaceFood and Agriculture Organization (June 2006). "Food and Agriculture Statistics Global Outlook." Rome: FAO Statistics Division. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18. and about 20% of its net primary productivity. Added to this are the resource-hungry activities of industrial agribusiness—everything from the crop need for irrigation water, synthetic and to the resource costs of food packaging, transport (now a major part of global trade) and retail. Environmental problems associated with industrial agriculture and are now being addressed through such movements as sustainable agriculture, and more sustainable business practices. World Business Council for Sustainable Development This web site has multiple articles on contributions to sustainable development. Retrieved on: 2009-04-07.

Management of human consumption
The underlying driver of direct human impacts on the environment is human consumption.Michaelis, L. & Lorek, S. (2004). "Consumption and the Environment in Europe: Trends and Futures." Danish Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Project No. 904. This impact is reduced by not only consuming less but by also making the full cycle of production, use and disposal more sustainable. Consumption of goods and services can be analysed and managed at all scales through the chain of consumption, starting with the effects of individual lifestyle choices and spending patterns, through to the resource demands of specific goods and services, the impacts of economic sectors, through national economies to the global economy.Jackson, T. & Michaelis, L. (2003). "Policies for Sustainable Consumption". The UK Sustainable Development Commission. Analysis of consumption patterns relates resource use to the environmental, social and economic impacts at the scale or context under investigation. The ideas of embodied resource use (the total resources needed to produce a product or service), resource intensity, and resource productivity are important tools for understanding the impacts of consumption. Key resource categories relating to human needs are , , materials and water.

In 2010, the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), published the first global scientific assessment on the impacts of consumption and production Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials 2010, International Resource Panel, United Nations Environment Programme and identified priority actions for developed and developing countries. The study found that the most critical impacts are related to health, human health and resource depletion. From a production perspective, it found that fossil-fuel combustion processes, agriculture and have the most important impacts. Meanwhile, from a final consumption perspective, it found that household consumption related to mobility, shelter, and energy-using products cause the majority of life-cycle impacts of consumption.

The Sun's energy, stored by plants () during , passes through the to other organisms to ultimately power all living processes. Since the industrial revolution the concentrated energy of the stored in fossilized plants as has been a major driver of which, in turn, has been the source of both economic and political power. In 2007 climate scientists of the IPCC concluded that there was at least a 90% probability that atmospheric increase in CO2 was human-induced, mostly as a result of fossil fuel emissions but, to a lesser extent from changes in land use. Stabilizing the world's climate will require high-income countries to reduce their emissions by 60–90% over 2006 levels by 2050 which should hold CO2 levels at 450–650 ppm from current levels of about 380 ppm. Above this level, temperatures could rise by more than 2 °C to produce "catastrophic" .IPCC (2007). " Climate Change 2007: the Physical Science Basis. Summary for Policymakers." Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.UNFCC (2009). " United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change." Retrieved on: 2009-03-18. Reduction of current CO2 levels must be achieved against a background of global population increase and developing countries aspiring to energy-intensive high consumption Western lifestyles.Goodall, C. (2007). How to Live a Low-carbon Life. London: Earthscan. .

Reducing greenhouse emissions, is being tackled at all scales, ranging from tracking the passage of carbon through the U.S. Department of NOAA Research. "The Carbon Cycle." Retrieved on: 2009-03-18. to the commercialization of renewable energy, developing less carbon-hungry technology and transport systems and attempts by individuals to lead lifestyles by monitoring the fossil fuel use embodied in all the goods and services they use.Fujixerox "Carbon Calculator Demonstration". One of many carbon calculators readily accessible on the web. Retrieved on: 2009-04-07. of emerging technologies such as carbon-neutral fuel and energy storage systems such as power to gas, compressed air energy storage, and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are necessary to store power from transient sources including emerging renewables such as airborne wind turbines.

and are inextricably linked. In the decade 1951–60 human water withdrawals were four times greater than the previous decade. This rapid increase resulted from scientific and technological developments impacting through the —especially the increase in irrigated land, growth in industrial and power sectors, and intensive construction on all continents. This altered the water cycle of and , affected their and had a significant impact on the global water cycle. Currently towards 35% of human water use is unsustainable, drawing on diminishing aquifers and reducing the flows of major rivers: this percentage is likely to increase if impacts become more severe, increase, aquifers become progressively depleted and supplies become polluted and unsanitary.Clarke & King (2006) pp. 22–23. From 1961 to 2001 water demand doubled—agricultural use increased by 75%, industrial use by more than 200%, and domestic use more than 400%.Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, pp. 51–53. In the 1990s it was estimated that humans were using 40–50% of the globally available freshwater in the approximate proportion of 70% for agriculture, 22% for , and 8% for domestic purposes with total use progressively increasing.Shiklamov, I. (1998). "World Water Resources. A New Appraisal and Assessment for the 21st century." A Summary of the Monograph World Water Resources prepared in the Framework of the International Hydrological Programme. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.

is being improved on a global scale by increased demand management, improved infrastructure, improved water productivity of agriculture, minimising the water intensity (embodied water) of goods and services, addressing shortages in the non-industrialized world, concentrating food production in areas of high productivity, and planning for , such as through flexible system design. A promising direction towards sustainable development is to design systems that are flexible and reversible. At the local level, people are becoming more self-sufficient by harvesting rainwater and reducing use of mains water.


The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a "sustainable food system" Retrieved on: 2009-03-18. as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities." Concerns about the environmental impacts of agribusiness and the stark contrast between the problems of the Western world and the poverty and food insecurity of the developing world have generated a strong movement towards healthy, sustainable eating as a major component of overall ethical consumerism.Mason, J. & Singer, P. (2006). The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. London: Random House. The environmental effects of different dietary patterns depend on many factors, including the proportion of animal and plant foods consumed and the method of food production. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.Steinfeld H., Gerber P., Wassenaar T., Castel V., Rosales M., de Haan, C. (2006). "Livestock's Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options" 390 pp. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18. The World Health Organization has published a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health report which was endorsed by the May 2004 World Health Assembly. It recommends the Mediterranean diet which is associated with health and and is low in , rich in and , low in added sugar and limited salt, and low in acids; the traditional source of in the Mediterranean is , rich in monounsaturated fat. The healthy rice-based Japanese diet is also high in and low in fat. Both diets are low in meat and and high in and other vegetables; they are associated with a low incidence of ailments and low environmental impact.World Health Organisation (2004). "Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health." Copy of the strategy endorsed by the World Health Assembly. Retrieved on: 2009-6-19.

At the global level the environmental impact of agribusiness is being addressed through sustainable agriculture and . At the local level there are various movements working towards local food production, more productive use of urban wastelands and domestic gardens including , urban horticulture, , , sustainable gardening, and organic gardening. "Earth Stats." Retrieved on: 2009-07-07.Holmgren, D. (March 2005). "Retrofitting the suburbs for sustainability." CSIRO Sustainability Network. Retrieved on: 2009-07-07.

Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both and environmentally destructive fishing methods.

Materials, toxic substances, waste

As global population and affluence has increased, so has the use of various materials increased in volume, diversity and distance transported. Included here are raw materials, minerals, synthetic chemicals (including hazardous substances), manufactured products, food, living organisms and waste.Bournay, E. et al. (2006). Vital waste graphics 2. The Basel Convention, UNEP, GRID-Arendal. . By 2050, humanity could consume an estimated 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year (three times its current amount) unless the economic growth rate is decoupled from the rate of natural resource consumption. Developed countries' citizens consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita, ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries with resource consumption levels far beyond what is likely sustainable.UNEP (2011). Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth. . Retrieved on: 2011-11-30.

Sustainable use of materials has targeted the idea of dematerialization, converting the linear path of materials (extraction, use, disposal in landfill) to a circular material flow that reuses materials as much as possible, much like the cycling and reuse of waste in nature. This approach is supported by product stewardship and the increasing use of material flow analysis at all levels, especially individual countries and the global economy. Product Stewardship Council (US). Retrieved on: 2009-04-05. The use of sustainable biomaterials that come from renewable sources and that can be recycled is preferred to the use on non-renewables from a life cycle standpoint.

Synthetic chemical production has escalated following the stimulus it received during the second World War. Chemical production includes everything from herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to domestic chemicals and hazardous substances.Emden, H.F. van & Peakall, D.B. (1996). Beyond Silent Spring. Berkeley: Springer. . Apart from the build-up of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, chemicals of particular concern include: , , chlorofluorocarbons, persistent organic pollutants and all harmful chemicals capable of . Although most synthetic chemicals are harmless there needs to be rigorous testing of new chemicals, in all countries, for adverse environmental and health effects. International legislation has been established to deal with the global distribution and management of .Hassall, K.A. (1990). The Biochemistry and Uses of Pesticides. London: Macmillan. . Database on Pesticides Consumption. Statistics for pesticide use around the world. Retrieved on: 2009-3-10. The effects of some chemical agents needed long-term measurements and a lot of legal battles to realize their danger to human health. The classification of the toxic carcinogenic agents is handle by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Every economic activity produces material that can be classified as waste. To reduce waste, industry, business and government are now mimicking nature by turning the waste produced by industrial metabolism into resource. Dematerialization is being encouraged through the ideas of industrial ecology, Fuad-Luke, A. (2006). The Eco-design Handbook. London: Thames & Hudson. . and . In addition to the well-established "reduce, reuse and recycle", shoppers are using their purchasing power for ethical consumerism.

The European Union is expected to table by the end of 2015 an ambitious Circular Economy package which is expected to include concrete legislative proposals on waste management, ecodesign and limits on land fills.

Economic dimension
On one account, sustainability "concerns the specification of a set of actions to be taken by present persons that will not diminish the prospects of future persons to enjoy levels of consumption, wealth, utility, or welfare comparable to those enjoyed by present persons". (2008). "sustainability," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract. Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity. Sustainability economics represents: "... a broad interpretation of ecological economics where environmental and ecological variables and issues are basic but part of a multidimensional perspective. Social, cultural, health-related and monetary/financial aspects have to be integrated into the analysis."Soederbaum, P. (2008). Understanding Sustainability Economics. London: Earthscan. . However, the concept of sustainability is much broader than the concepts of sustained yield of welfare, resources, or profit margins. At present, the average per capita consumption of people in the developing world is sustainable but population numbers are increasing and individuals are aspiring to high-consumption Western lifestyles. The developed world population is only increasing slightly but consumption levels are unsustainable. The challenge for sustainability is to curb and manage Western consumption while raising the standard of living of the developing world without increasing its resource use and environmental impact. This must be done by using strategies and technology that break the link between, on the one hand, economic growth and on the other, environmental damage and resource depletion.Ruffing, K. (2007). "Indicators to Measure Decoupling of Environmental Pressure from Economic Growth", pp. 211–222 in: Hak et al. Sustainability Indicators. SCOPE 67. London: Island Press. .

A recent UNEP report proposes a defined as one that "improves human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities": it "does not favor one political perspective over another but works to minimize excessive depletion of ". The report makes three key findings: "that greening not only generates increases in wealth, in particular a gain in ecological commons or natural capital, but also (over a period of six years) produces a higher rate of GDP growth"; that there is "an inextricable link between poverty eradication and better maintenance and conservation of the ecological commons, arising from the benefit flows from natural capital that are received directly by the poor"; "in the transition to a green economy, new jobs are created, which in time exceed the losses in "brown economy" jobs. However, there is a period of job losses in transition, which requires investment in re-skilling and re-educating the workforce".United Nations Environmental Program (2011). Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication – A Synthesis for Policy Makers.

Several key areas have been targeted for economic analysis and reform: the environmental effects of unconstrained economic growth; the consequences of nature being treated as an economic ; and the possibility of an economics that takes greater account of the social and environmental consequences of market behavior.Hawken, P., Lovins, A. B. & L. H. (1999). Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. Snowmass, Colo.: Rocky Mountain Institute. .

Decoupling environmental degradation and economic growth
Historically there has been a close correlation between and environmental degradation: as communities grow, so the environment declines. This trend is clearly demonstrated on graphs of human population numbers, economic growth, and environmental indicators.Adams & Jeanrenaud (2008) p. 15. Unsustainable economic growth has been starkly compared to the malignant growth of a cancerAbbey, E. (1968). Desert Solitaire. New York: Ballantine Books, . . Actual quote from novel is: growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell because it eats away at the Earth's ecosystem services which are its life-support system. There is concern that, unless resource use is checked, modern global civilization will follow the path of ancient civilizations that collapsed through of their resource base.Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking Books. .Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. . While conventional economics is concerned largely with economic growth and the efficient allocation of resources, ecological economics has the explicit goal of sustainable scale (rather than continual growth), fair distribution and efficient allocation, in that order.Daly, H.E. & Farley, J. (2004). Ecological economics: principles and applications. Washington: Island Press. p.xxvi. .Costanza, R. et al. (2007). An Introduction to Ecological Economics. This is an online editable text available at the Encyclopedia of Earth. First published in 1997 by St. Lucie Press and the International Society for Ecological Economics. Ch. 1, pp. 1–4, Ch.3, p. 3. . The World Business Council for Sustainable Development states that "business cannot succeed in societies that fail". WBCSD's 10 messages by which to operate World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Retrieved 2009-04-06.

In and environmental fields, the term decoupling is becoming increasingly used in the context of economic production and environmental quality. When used in this way, it refers to the ability of an economy to grow without incurring corresponding increases in environmental pressure. Ecological economics includes the study of societal metabolism, the throughput of resources that enter and exit the economic system in relation to environmental quality.Cleveland, C.J. "Biophysical economics", Encyclopedia of Earth, Last updated: 14 September 2006. Retrieved on: 2009-03-17. An economy that is able to sustain GDP growth without having a negative impact on the environment is said to be decoupled. Exactly how, if, or to what extent this can be achieved is a subject of much debate. In 2011 the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), warned that by 2050 the human race could be devouring 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year—three times its current rate of consumption—unless nations can make serious attempts at decoupling. Decoupling: natural resource use and environmental impacts of economic growth. International Resource Panel report, 2011 The report noted that citizens of developed countries consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita per annum (ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries). By comparison, the average person in India today consumes four tons per year. Sustainability studies analyse ways to reduce resource intensity (the amount of resource (e.g. water, energy, or materials) needed for the production, consumption and disposal of a unit of good or service) whether this be achieved from improved economic management, product design, or new technology.Daly, H. (1996). Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press. .

There are conflicting views whether improvements in technological efficiency and innovation will enable a complete decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation. On the one hand, it has been claimed repeatedly by efficiency experts that resource use intensity (i.e., energy and materials use per unit ) could in principle be reduced by at least four or five-fold, thereby allowing for continued economic growth without increasing resource depletion and associated pollution.Von Weizsacker, E.U. (1998). Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use, Earthscan.Von Weizsacker, E.U., C. Hargroves, M.H. Smith, C. Desha, and P. Stasinopoulos (2009). Factor Five: Transforming the Global Economy through 80% Improvements in Resource Productivity, Routledge. On the other hand, an extensive historical analysis of technological efficiency improvements has conclusively shown that improvements in the efficiency of the use of energy and materials were almost always outpaced by economic growth, in large part because of the rebound effect (conservation) or resulting in a net increase in resource use and associated pollution.Huesemann, M.H., and J.A. Huesemann (2011). Technofix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment, Chapter 5, "In Search of Solutions II: Efficiency Improvements", New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada. Furthermore, there are inherent thermodynamic (i.e., second law of thermodynamics) and practical limits to all efficiency improvements. For example, there are certain minimum unavoidable material requirements for growing food, and there are limits to making automobiles, houses, furniture, and other products lighter and thinner without the risk of losing their necessary functions.Huesemann, M.H., and J.A. Huesemann (2011). Technofix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada, p. 111. Since it is both theoretically and practically impossible to increase resource use efficiencies indefinitely, it is equally impossible to have continued and infinite economic growth without a concomitant increase in resource depletion and environmental pollution, i.e., economic growth and resource depletion can be decoupled to some degree over the short run but not the long run. Consequently, long-term sustainability requires the transition to a steady state economy in which total GDP remains more or less constant, as has been advocated for decades by and others in the ecological economics community.

A different proposed solution to partially decouple economic growth from environmental degradation is the restore approach. This approach views "restore" as a fourth component to the common reduce, reuse, recycle motto. Participants in such efforts are encouraged to voluntarily donate towards nature conservation a small fraction of the financial savings they experience through a more frugal use of resources. These financial savings would normally lead to rebound effects, but a theoretical analysis suggests that donating even a small fraction of the experienced savings can potentially more than eliminate rebound effects.

Nature as an economic externality

The economic importance of nature is indicated by the use of the expression ecosystem services to highlight the market relevance of an increasingly scarce natural world that can no longer be regarded as both unlimited and free. In general, as a or service becomes more scarce the increases and this acts as a restraint that encourages frugality, technical innovation and alternative products. However, this only applies when the product or service falls within the market system. As ecosystem services are generally treated as economic they are unpriced and therefore overused and degraded, a situation sometimes referred to as the Tragedy of the Commons.

One approach to this dilemma has been the attempt to "internalize" these "externalities" by using market strategies like and incentives, tradeable permits for carbon, and the encouragement of payment for ecosystem services. Community currencies associated with Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS), a and have also been promoted as a way of supporting local economies and the environment.[66] et al, "Complementary Currencies as a Method to Improve Local Sustainable Economic Welfare", University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, December 12th, 2003. Boyle, David (June 10, 2005) "Sustainability and social assets: the potential of time banks and co-production", Grassroots Initiatives for Sustainable Development. Retrieved on 2016-03-13. is another market-based attempt to address issues of equity and the environment.Scott Cato, M. (2009). Green Economics. London: Earthscan, pp. 142–150. . The global recession and a range of associated government policies are likely to bring the biggest annual fall in the world's carbon dioxide emissions in 40 years.

Economic opportunity
Treating the environment as an externality may generate short-term profit at the expense of sustainability.Kinsley, M. (1977). "Sustainable development: Prosperity without growth." Rocky Mountain Institute, Snowmass, Colorado, USA. Retrieved on: 2009-06-17 Sustainable business practices, on the other hand, integrate ecological concerns with social and economic ones (i.e., the triple bottom line).Kinsley, M. and Lovins, L.H. (September 1997). "Paying for Growth, Prospering from Development." Retrieved on: 2009-06-15. Sustainable Shrinkage: Envisioning a Smaller, Stronger Economy. Retrieved on 2016-03-13. Growth that depletes ecosystem services is sometimes termed "uneconomic growth" as it leads to a decline in quality of life.Daly, H. (2007). "Ecological economics: the concept of scale and its relation to allocation, distribution, and uneconomic growth", pp. 82–103 in H. Daly. Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development: Selected Essays of Herman Daly. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.Daly, H. (1999). "Uneconomic growth and the built environment: in theory and in fact", in C.J. Kibert (ed.). Reshaping the Built Environment: Ecology, Ethics, and Economics. Washington DC: Island Press. Minimizing such growth can provide opportunities for local businesses. For example, industrial waste can be treated as an "economic resource in the wrong place". The benefits of include savings from disposal costs, fewer environmental penalties, and reduced liability insurance. This may lead to increased market share due to an improved public image.Hargroves, K. & Smith, M. (eds.) (2005). The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century. London: Earthscan/James&James. . Energy efficiency can also increase profits by reducing costs.

The idea of sustainability as a business opportunity has led to the formation of organizations such as the Sustainability Consortium of the Society for Organizational Learning, the Sustainable Business Institute, and the World Council for Sustainable Development.See, for example: Zhexembayeva, N. (May 2007). "Becoming Sustainable: Tools and Resources for Successful Organizational Transformation." Case Western University, Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit 3(2) and websites of The Sustainable Business Institute , and the WBCSD." Retrieved on: 2009-04-01. The expansion of sustainable business opportunities can contribute to through the introduction of workers. Leo Hickman, "The future of work is green" The Guardian, February 2009. Research focusing on progressive corporate leaders who have integrated sustainability into commercial strategy has yielded a leadership competency model for sustainability, Leadership in sustainability. Retrieved on: 2009-04-01. Leadership competency model . Retrieved on: 2009-04-01 and led to emergence of the concept of "embedded sustainability"—defined by its authors Chris Laszlo and Nadya Zhexembayeva as "incorporation of environmental, health, and social value into the core business with no trade-off in price or quality—in other words, with no social or green premium".Laszlo, Chris and Zhexembayeva, Nadya (April 25, 2011) "Embedded Sustainability: A strategy for market leaders". The European Financial Review Laszlo and Zhexembayeva's research showed that embedded sustainability offers at least seven distinct opportunities for business value creation: a) better risk-management, b) increased efficiency through reduced waste and resource use, c) better product differentiation, d) new market entrances, e) enhanced brand and reputation, f) greater opportunity to influence industry standards, and g) greater opportunity for radical innovation.Laszlo, C. & Zhexembayeva, N. (2011). Embedded Sustainability: The Next Big Competitive Advantage. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Nadya Zhexembayeva's 2014 research further suggested that innovation driven by resource depletion can result in fundamental advantages for company products and services, as well as the company strategy as a whole, when right principles of innovation are applied.Zhexembayeva, N. (2014). Overfished Ocean Strategy: Powering Up Innovation for a Resource-Depleted World. San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler Publishers.

Ecosocialist approach
One school of thought, often labeled or ecological Marxism, asserts that the is fundamentally incompatible with the ecological and social requirements of sustainability.Magdoff & Foster 2011, p. 30. This theory rests on the premises that:
  1. Capitalism's sole economic purpose is "unlimited capital accumulation" in the hands of the Magdoff & Foster 2011, p. 7.
  2. The urge to accumulate (the ) drives capitalists to continually reinvest and expand production, creating indefinite and unsustainable economic growthMagdoff & Foster 2011, pp. 42–3.Kovel 2007, pp. 38, 45.
  3. "Capital tends to degrade the conditions of its own production" (the ecosystems and resources on which any economy depends)Kovel 2007, p. 38.

Thus, according to this analysis:

  1. Giving economic priority to the fulfillment of while staying within ecological limits, as sustainable development demands, is in conflict with the structural workings of capitalismMagdoff & Foster 2011, p. 96.
  2. A steady-state capitalist economy is impossible;Magdoff & Foster 2011, p. 56. further, a steady-state capitalist economy is socially undesirable due to the inevitable outcome of massive Magdoff & Foster 2011, pp. 42, 58.
  3. Capitalism will, unless overcome by , run up against the physical limits of the biosphere and self-destructMagdoff & Foster 2011, pp. 27, 122–3.

By this logic, market-based solutions to ecological crises (ecological economics, environmental economics, ) are rejected as technical tweaks that do not confront capitalism's structural failures.Magdoff & Foster 2011, p. 97.Kovel 2007, pp. 173–87. "Low-risk" technology/science-based solutions such as , sustainable agriculture, and increases in energy efficiency are seen as necessary but insufficient.Magdoff & Foster 2011, pp. 108–9. "High-risk" technological solutions such as and climate engineering are entirely rejected.Magdoff & Foster 2011, pp. 111–4. Attempts made by businesses to "" their practices are regarded as false advertising, and it is pointed out that implementation of renewable technology (such as 's proposition to supply their electricity with solar power) has , viz. further economic growth.Magdoff & Foster 2011, pp. 102–7. Sustainable business models and the triple bottom line are viewed as morally praiseworthy but ignorant to the tendency in capitalism for the distribution of wealth to become increasingly unequal and socially unstable/unsustainable.Magdoff & Foster 2011, p. 83. Ecosocialists claim that the general unwillingness of capitalists to tolerate—and capitalist governments to implement—constraints on maximum profit (such as ecotaxes or preservation and conservation measures) renders environmental reforms incapable of facilitating large-scale change: "History teaches us that although capitalism has at times responded to environmental movements ... at a certain point, at which the system's underlying accumulation drive is affected, its resistance to environmental demands stiffens."Magdoff & Foster 2011, p. 125. They also note that, up until the event of total ecological collapse, destruction caused by natural disasters generally causes an increase in economic growth and accumulation; thus, capitalists have no foreseeable motivation to reduce the probability of disasters (i.e. convert to sustainable/ecological production).Kovel 2007, pp. 285–6.

Ecosocialists advocate for the succession of capitalism by ecosocialism—an economic/political/social structure designed to harmonize human society with non-human ecology and to fulfill —as the only sufficient solution to the present-day ecological crisis, and hence the only path towards sustainability.Kovel 2007, p. 163. Sustainability is viewed not as a domain exclusive to scientists, environmental activists, and business leaders but as a holistic project that must involve the whole of humanity redefining its place in : "What every environmentalist needs to know ... is that capitalism is not the solution but the problem, and that if humanity is going to survive this crisis, it will do so because it has exercised its capacity for human freedom, through social struggle, in order to create a whole new world—in coevolution with the planet."Magdoff & Foster 2011, pp. 8–9.

Social dimension
Sustainability issues are generally expressed in and environmental terms, as well as in ethical terms of , but implementing change is a social challenge that entails, among other things, international and national , and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism.Agenda 21 "Declaration of the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development." Retrieved on: 2009-03-16. "The relationship between human rights and human development, corporate power and environmental justice, global poverty and citizen action, suggest that responsible global citizenship is an inescapable element of what may at first glance seem to be simply matters of personal consumer and moral choice."Blewitt, J. (2008). Understanding Sustainable Development. London: Earthscan. p. 96. ..

Peace, security, social justice
Social disruptions like , and corruption divert resources from areas of greatest human need, damage the capacity of societies to plan for the future, and generally threaten human well-being and the environment. Broad-based strategies for more sustainable social systems include: improved education and the political empowerment of women, especially in developing countries; greater regard for social justice, notably equity between rich and poor both within and between countries; and intergenerational equity. Depletion of natural resources including fresh water "Water and Political Conflicts" from United Nations Environment Programme 2008 "Vital Water Graphics" Retrieved on: 2009-03-16. increases the likelihood of "resource wars".Billon, P. (ed.) (2005) The Geopolitics of Resource Wars Retrieved on: 2009-04-05. This aspect of sustainability has been referred to as environmental security and creates a clear need for global environmental agreements to manage resources such as aquifers and rivers which span political boundaries, and to protect shared global systems including and the atmosphere.Kobtzeff, O. (2000). "Environmental Security and Civil Society". In Gardner, H. (ed.) Central and South-central Europe in Transition. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, pp. 219–296.

A major hurdle to achieve sustainability is the alleviation of poverty. It has been widely acknowledged that poverty is one source of environmental degradation. Such acknowledgment has been made by the Brundtland Commission report Our Common Future and the Millennium Development Goals. There is a growing realization in national governments and multilateral institutions that it is impossible to separate economic development issues from environment issues: according to the Brundtland report, "poverty is a major cause and effect of global environmental problems. It is therefore futile to attempt to deal with environmental problems without a broader perspective that encompasses the factors underlying world poverty and international inequality." Individuals living in poverty tend to rely heavily on their local ecosystem as a source for basic needs (such as nutrition and medicine) and general well-being. As population growth continues to increase, increasing pressure is being placed on the local ecosystem to provide these basic essentials. According to the UN Population Fund, high fertility and poverty have been strongly correlated, and the world's poorest countries also have the highest fertility and population growth rates. The word sustainability is also used widely by western country development agencies and international charities to focus their poverty alleviation efforts in ways that can be sustained by the local populace and its environment. For example, teaching to the poor by boiling their water with , would not generally be considered a sustainable strategy, whereas using PET solar water disinfection would be. Also, sustainable can involve the of materials, such as the use of recycled for lumber where deforestation has devastated a country's timber base. Another example of sustainable practices in poverty alleviation is the use of exported recycled materials from developed to developing countries, such as Bridges to Prosperity's use of wire rope from shipping container to act as the structural wire rope for that cross rivers in poor rural areas in Asia and Africa.

Human relationship to nature
According to , the idea that humans must dominate nature is common in societies. Bookchin contends that and market relationships, if unchecked, have the capacity to reduce the planet to a mere resource to be exploited. Nature is thus treated as a : "The plundering of the human spirit by the market place is paralleled by the plundering of the earth by capital."Bookchin, M. (2004). Post Scarcity Anarchism. Oakland: , pp. 24–25. . Social ecology, founded by Bookchin, is based on the conviction that nearly all of humanity's present ecological problems originate in, indeed are mere symptoms of, dysfunctional social arrangements. Whereas most authors proceed as if our ecological problems implementing recommendations which stem from physical, biological, economic etc., studies, Bookchin's claim is that these problems can only be resolved by understanding the underlying social processes and intervening in those processes by applying the concepts and methods of the social sciences.Bookchin, M. (2007). Social Ecology and Communalism. Oakland: AK Press, p. 19. .

A pure capitalist approach has also been criticized in Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change to mitigation the effects of global warming in this excerpt:

In regards of the United States of America, The Government and the Economy has had a long lasting impact on the environment, but in a problematic way. Policy issues regarding the environment has shown that the country regards the protection of the environment as a "second hand issue." One causation from this is a certain dilemma called "collective action problem" or collective action dilemmas." These occur when individuals, firms, or governments would be better off if they cooperated in the pursuit of a common goal, but, for one reason or another, one or more of those involved choose a less optimal course of action. Matthew Potoski and Aseem Prakash have made a model establishing 4 cells that are explaining each benefit for the government or the economic process. For the government, one cost might be the loss of public confidence and trust, while a firm might lose market share and profitability

is a movement founded by Arne Naess that establishes principles for the well-being of all life on Earth and the richness and diversity of life forms. The movement advocates, among other things, a substantial decrease in human population and consumption along with the reduction of human interference with the nonhuman world. To achieve this, deep ecologists advocate policies for basic economic, technological, and ideological structures that will improve the quality of life rather than the standard of living. Those who subscribe to these principles are obliged to make the necessary change happen.Devall, W. and G. Sessions (1985). Deep Ecology: Living as If Nature Mattered. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, p. 70. . The concept of a billion-year has been developed to initiate policy consideration of an earth where human structures power and fuel the needs of that species (for example through artificial photosynthesis) allowing Rights of Nature.

Human settlements
One approach to sustainable living, exemplified by small-scale urban and rural , seeks to create self-reliant communities based on principles of , which maximize particularly in food production. These principles, on a broader scale, underpin the concept of a economy. These approaches often utilize commons based knowledge sharing of open source appropriate technology.

Other approaches, loosely based around , are successfully reducing environmental impacts by altering the built environment to create and preserve sustainable cities which support sustainable transport and zero emission housing. Residents in compact urban neighborhoods drive fewer miles, and have significantly lower environmental impacts across a range of measures, compared with those living in suburbs.Ewing, R "Growing Cooler – the Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change" . Retrieved on: 2009-03-16. Compact urban neighbourhoods would also promote a great people climate, where by increasing the accessibility to bike, walk or take public transport within neighbourhoods would increase the amount of interaction between people. With more diversification between people, this increases people's happiness and leads to a better standard of living. In sustainable architecture the recent movement of New Classical Architecture promotes a sustainable approach towards construction, that appreciates and develops , architectural tradition and classical design. Charter of the New Urbanism. Retrieved on 2016-03-13. This in contrast to modernist and globally uniform architecture, as well as opposing solitary and . Issue Brief: Smart-Growth: Building Livable Communities. American Institute of Architects. Retrieved on 2014-03-23. Both trends started in the 1980s. The concept of Circular flow land use management has also been introduced in Europe to promote sustainable land use patterns that strive for compact cities and a reduction of greenfield land take by urban sprawl.

Large scale can influence both community choices and the built environment. may be one such movement.LaColla, T. "It's Easy to be Green! Eco-Municipalities: Here to Stay". Retrieved on: 2009-03-16. Eco-municipalities take a approach, based on sustainability principles. The eco-municipality movement is participatory, involving community members in a bottom-up approach. In Sweden, more than 70 cities and towns—25 per cent of all municipalities in the country—have adopted a common set of "Sustainability Principles" and implemented these systematically throughout their municipal operations. There are now twelve eco-municipalities in the United States and the American Planning Association has adopted sustainability objectives based on the same principles.James, S. (2003). "Eco-municipalities: Sweden and the United States: A Systems Approach to Creating Communities". Retrieved on: 2009-03-16.

There is a wealth of advice available to individuals wishing to reduce their personal and social impact on the environment through small, inexpensive and easily achievable steps.Sustainable Environment for Quality of Life. "100 Ways to Save the Environment." Retrieved on: 2009-06-13.Suzuki, D. (2009). "What you can do" David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved on: 2012-01-30. But the transition required to reduce global human consumption to within sustainable limits involves much larger changes, at all levels and contexts of society.Stockholm Environment Institute "Great Transitions". Retrieved on: 2009-04-12. The has recognised the central role of education, and have declared a decade of education for sustainable development, 2005–2014, which aims to "challenge us all to adopt new behaviours and practices to secure our future".United Nations Environment Programme (2009). "United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development." Retrieved on: 2009-04-09. The Worldwide Fund for Nature proposes a strategy for sustainability that goes beyond education to tackle underlying individualistic and materialistic societal values head-on and strengthen people's connections with the natural world.WWF. Sustainability also refers to social structure (April, 2008). "Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environment Movement at a Crossroads". Summary also available here . Retrieved on: 2009-03-13.

Human and labor rights
Application of social sustainability requires stakeholders to look at human and labor rights, prevention of human trafficking, and other human rights risks. These issues should be considered in production and procurement of various worldwide commodities. The international community has identified many industries whose practices have been known to violate social sustainability, and many of these industries have organizations in place that aid in verifying the social sustainability of products and services. The Equator Principles (financial industry), Fair Wear Foundation (garments), and Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition are examples of such organizations and initiatives. Resources are also available for verifying the life-cycle of products and the producer or vendor level, such as for cleaning products, NSF-140 for carpet production, and even labeling of in the United States.

Cultural dimension
The cultural dimension of sustainability is known as cultural sustainability. Important in the advancement of this notion have been the , , and in particular their Agenda 21 and Agenda 21 for culture (now also known as Culture 21), a program for cultural governance developed in 2002–2004 and coordinated by United Cities and Local Governments UCLG, created in 2004.

Sustainability is central to underpinning feelings of authenticity in tourism. Experiences can be enhanced when substituting the contrived for the genuine, and at the same time inspire a potentially deleterious appetite for follow-up visits to the real thing: objectively authentic sites untouched by repair or rejuvenation. Feelings of authenticity at a tourist site are thus implicitly linked to sustainable tourism; as the maximisation of existential "felt" authenticity at sites of limited historical provenance increases the likelihood of return visits.

See also
  • Bibliography of sustainability
  • List of sustainability topics
  • Outline of sustainability
  • (category)
  • Computational sustainability
  • Foresight (psychology)

  • United Nations Agenda 21
  • Applied sustainability
  • Appropriate technology
  • Circles of Sustainability
  • Cradle-to-cradle design
  • Environmental issue
  • Environmental racism
  • Human overpopulation
  • Introduced species
  • Micro-sustainability
  • Pledge two or fewer (campaign for smaller families)
  • Resource efficiency
  • Sociocultural evolution
  • Sustainability and systemic change resistance
  • Sustainable capitalism
  • Sustainable design
  • Sustainable development
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Sustainable forest management
  • Sustainable living
  • Sustainable sanitation
  • Sustainability science
  • Sustainability standards and certification
  • Sustainability studies
  • World Cities Summit

  • Adams, W. M. and Jeanrenaud, S. J. (2008). Transition to Sustainability: Towards a Humane and Diverse World. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 108 pp. .
  • Bakari, Mohamed El-Kamel. The Dilemma of Sustainability in the Age of Globalization: A Quest for a Paradigm of Development. New York: Lexington Books, 2017.
  • Clarke, R., and King, J. (2006). The Atlas of Water. London: Earthscan. .
  • , , 2005 ().
  • .
  • Khaidukov, D.; Tasalov, K. (2016). The role of institutions in sustainable development of the city regions in the United Kingdom and Russian Federation. Public Administration of the Russian Federation: Challenges and Prospects: International Conference of Lomonosov Moscow State University. Moscow: КDU, University press. pp. 4–10. .
  • Kovel, J. (2007). The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?. New York, NY: Zed Books Ltd. .
  • Krebs, C. J. (2001). Ecology: the Experimental Analysis of Distribution and Abundance. Sydney: Benjamin Cummings. .
  • Magdoff, F. and Foster, J. B. (2011). What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism: A Citizen's Guide to Capitalism and the Environment. New York: Monthly Review Press. .

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