Basic Definition: The ability or capacity to maintain existence.
Constrained Growth: Places emphasis on economic growth pursued in a more gradual, ecologically sensitive manner. This perspective agrees with modern society by claiming a sustainable level of growth is possible, even necessary, and is therefore widely accepted. Although economic considerations hold a significant place in the modern world, it must be understood that growth and over consumption are the single greatest detriments to sustainability.1
Resource Maintenance: Places protection of natural resources and economic considerations on equal footing. This perspective conflicts with modern society, particularly society built on mass consumption because it forces us to rethink our relationship to the environment, our consumption patterns, and standards of living. The primary objective becomes a physically non-growing economy in equilibrium with a finite non-growing environment.1
Visual Representation: Contemporary representations often depict sustainability as the balance between three interacting systems: social progress, economic stability, and environmental stewardship.
A Systems Approach
Short and long Term Effects
Accelerated global population growth, production and consumption rates raise concerns over humanities' ability to sustain their way of life. Some significant consequences of this movement include: dependence on and simulataneous depletion of natural resources, wealth disparity, and pollution. Many sustainability advocates depict the far off future with cataclysmic scenarios that parallel the great apocalyptic science fiction novels of our time. Although long-term survival represents an overwhelmingly important component for a sustainable society, it often overshadows concerns on shorter timescales. This form of restriction muddles debate, forfeits a portion of support, and effectively hinders action. If humans inherently act out of self-interest, just as the simplified economic models and resulting artificial social organization tell us, then who will invest time and hard earned money in an idea that mostly benefits another person in some far off point in time? The point of this thought exercise is not to dispute altruistic human behavior, but to agree with the argument that humans also act out self-interest and arguments for sustainability should entertain this. Sustainability should be argued using the short- and long-term benefits of its pursuance, and the short- and long-term consequences of inaction.