A sustainable future
The notion of ‘sustainability’ emerged in the 1980s and has become the key concept for exploring the impact of human activity on the planet. Put at its most simple any human activity is sustainable if it can continue fairly indefinitely without causing harm to either people or planet. Alternatively, any human activity that results in on-going harm to either people or planet is the opposite – unsustainable. It has now become clear that many of our practices today come in the latter category.
At the Earth Summit in 1992 this vital concept became enshrined in national and international policy and debate. This occurred because it was then recognised that human activity was increasingly threatening the biosphere – that narrow zone of earth, air, water – on which all life (plants, creatures, humans) depends. It also occurred because it was recognised that issues of development, i.e. global wealth and poverty, were increasingly threatening people’s life chances in both poor and rich countries. It is vitally important therefore that one understands what some of the key features of a more sustainable future would be. Unless one is able to visualise these one has no clear goal to work towards. See in particular Visser’s The Top 50 Sustainability Books (2009), a highly commended overview of fifty years of research and writing on these matters, and also Washington’s Demystifying Sustainability (2015). Some of the key elements of such a future can also be found in chapters 6-13 Sustainable Schools, Sustainable Futures.
There’s much more to read …