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What 'On Earth' Does 'Sustainability' Mean?



There are as many meanings for the word ‘Sustainability’ as there are months in the year.

Wikipedia tells us that ‘Dictionaries provide more than ten meanings for sustain, the main ones being to “maintain", "support", or "endure”. However, since the 1980s sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth.’

Over the following 30 years, a plethora of new and complex definitions by governments and well-meaning organisations have been broadcast to the masses in all forms of media, with some firmly sitting under the heading of ‘scare mongering’. In fact it has made some people turn their back on the whole environmental issue because, quite frankly, it was enough to make your head spin.

So how do we wade through the many and varied definitions to find the one meaning that resonates with those of us concerned about our planet's future? How do we define what it all means in respect to how we personally live our lives and how we can go about developing our own environmental goals?

Well, for what it is worth, my method was to get back to basics and contemplate what the world may have been like before humans walked the earth, and what history has told us are the steps that have brought us to the challenging environmental times we find ourselves in today. The research turned out to be a fascinating process and often had me squirming in my seat as it became clear that many big decisions about what direction humanity should take, were made with little or no thought about the impact on the planet we all call home.

From that, I put together a simple sentence that defines for me, what sustainability really means: ‘An activity or action can be described as ‘Sustainable’ if the activity can be undertaken by all humans and be supported by nature indefinitely’.

With that said, it was important to get a handle on just what activities and actions that most of us undertake in our everyday lives, are impacting adversely on our planet and what can we do about it.

I did discover, to my relief, that making the changes, necessary to live in closer harmony with the earth, was not as difficult as first thought. In fact it is an exciting and enlightening journey and one that I would like to share with you over the next few weeks, one topic at a time.

Next edition – Caring for our Community.

Visit me at Ecolateral 411 Magill Road St Morris or visit for more info on sustainability.

411 Magill Road St Morris, SA 5068 Australia (08) 8333 3478

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