What is Sustainability?

The first step in creating a sustainable future is building a foundation where everyone knows exactly what the ground rules are and trusts that they will be applied equally and equitably. This starts with adopting an ecologically sound and legally defensible definition of sustainability to provide the consistency necessary for planning, a tool to analyze proposals, and a yardstick to measure progress. Here is the proposed definition, containing three necessary clauses which inform, support and strengthen each other:


1) The integration of human social and economic lives into the environment in ways that tend to enhance or maintain rather than degrade or destroy the environment;

2) A moral imperative to pass on our natural inheritance, not necessarily unchanged, but undiminished in its ability to meet the needs of future generations;

3) Entails determining, and staying within, the balance point among population, consumption and waste assimilation so that bioregions, watersheds and ecosystems can maintain their ability to recharge, replenish and regenerate.

Sustainability provides a common goal that peace, justice, and democracy advocates can use as the "big tent" that can support effective coalitions for change. Sustainability provides a new way of being in the world.

Sustainability is not an abstract concept, it is life. Perhaps sustainability can be best understood through its opposite—death to the planet—known as ecocide. After all, there will be no peace, justice or democracy on a dead planet.

Concepts that emerge from the definition of sustainability include the fact that an area can’t consider itself sustainable at the expense of another region, and that sustainability is not exclusively an environmental movement; it is a community movement.