Three elements of sustainability
Sustainability can be defined as any system’s ability to withstand and maintain a healthy, prolonged existence while preventing a harmful impact. Sustainable actions and decisions are those that consider the long-term implications of our decisions rather than merely focusing on the problems of today. They acknowledge social, economic, AND environmental dimensions as equal elements in human civic progress.
The social element of sustainability addresses issues of social inequality, injustice, worker rights and safety, and changing cultural values. As the world becomes more globally aware of cultural diversity, citizens in diverse cultures absorb values from other cultures. This can cause disruption to traditional practices while simultaneously stimulating thoughtful debate around new ideas.
The economic element of sustainability is closely tied to both social values and environmental resources. Consider that we utilize natural resources for just about every aspect of our existence, from shelter to food to transportation and clothing. All trade relies on goods created from those resources.
Our cultural values, both traditional and modern, influence how we use the natural resources in our local and regional environments. If we live in an arid land, we tend to conserve a water resource. If we live by a bountiful sea, we tend to harvest fish without thought of depletion (until there are no more fish…).
How we cultivate and harvest our resources impacts the ability of the resources to reproduce (or not). The technologies and processes we use to transform natural resources may be harmful (toxic), or benign. We have choice – we can choose to steward our natural resources or we can choose to deplete them.
Environmental issues have previously been regarded as lower priority against economic and social issues. As a result, greater conflicts have risen in climate change, deforestation, air and water pollution, and ozone depletion. Our quality of life is bound to reduce over time due to limited, unusable, and, in extreme cases, nonexistent resources. Sustainability is as crucial as economic and social investments if we are to preserve our planet.
Sustainable development as a whole, meets society’s current needs, and ensures future needs are met without compromise. When looking into the future, a few sustainable measures to be considered include waste reduction, reusing resources, encouraging biodiversity, and promoting social justice.