Sustainability through the ages

By – Klarissa M. Lasala

Sustainability through the ages

Sustainability through the ages 150 150 GCSS Inc.

Sustainability or sustainable development, as we know in the 21st century, is “the ability to meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It pushes us to think of the long-term impacts of our actions on the economy, environment, and society.  However, before it has come to this point, the concept of sustainability can be traced from forestry applications in the 18th century, with the concept of nachhaltigkeit which means never harvesting more than the forest can generate [1] [2].

Over the years, the concept has evolved to cover not just forests, but all biological systems, and not just the environment, but the economy and society as well. In the 20th century, the world started to adopt sustainable development through the First World Climate Conference in 1979, Brundtland Report in 1987, and the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, among others [1] [3]. In the present century, global commitments were established through the Millennium Development Goals developed for 2000-2015, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2015-2030. 

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, deep inequalities and system failures of the status quo have been laid bare – showing the importance of working on the SDGs. Efforts on SDGs progress may have been disrupted and may face serious setbacks; however, the world communities can take this moment to take bold steps for a greener, more inclusive, stronger, and more resilient communities [4]. As UN Secretary-General Guterres said, “We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.” [5]

References

[1] U. Grober, “Deep roots: A conceptual history of ‘sustainable development’ (Nachhaltigkeit),” WZB Discussion Paper, 2007. 
[2] The World Energy Foundation, “A Brief History of Sustainability,” 20 August 2014. [Online]. Available: https://theworldenergyfoundation.org/a-brief-history-of-sustainability/. [Accessed 30 July 2020].
[3] D. Hirst, “The history of global climate change negotiations,” 24 June 2020. [Online]. Available: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/insights/the-history-of-global-climate-change-negotiations/. [Accessed 4 August 2020].
[4] United Nations Environment Programme, “COVID-19: Four Sustainable Development Goals that help future-proof global recovery,” 26 May 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/covid-19-four-sustainable-development-goals-help-future-proof-global. [Accessed 4 August 2020].
[5] United Nations, “The Sustainable Development Goals: Our Framework for COVID-19 Recovery,” 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sdgs-framework-for-covid-19-recovery/. [Accessed 4 August 2020].

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