Sustainability, by dictionary definition, is the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.
Over time, there had been more interpretations on what sustainability is. Some may define sustainability as a way to “meet the need of the present” (Bruntland Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development, 1992) without risking our future generation’s resources. Others say that development system must “simultaneously protect and enhance the earth’s life support systems” before it can be called sustainable.
A system can be called sustainable if:
• It improves the quality of life by meeting the needs of the community.
• It provides balance in all advancements and developments of the system.
• It would not risk destroying or depleting existing resources.
• It always bears in mind the future generations’ well-being.
From all the meanings and insights of people around us, we can get a certain idea of what sustainability is. But even if the idea is present, it wouldn’t be easy to convert an existing system to a sustainable one. Even if sustainability can be easily defined, the process of putting it into action can be quite the opposite.
Just knowing the meaning of sustainability would not be enough to make a change. Actions are needed to advance the development of a sustainable future. A society cannot become sustainable if its members do not work hand-in-hand to change. There are factors that affect the sustainability of a society; the most prominent of which would be education.
UNESCO’s UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development’s goal is to teach sustainability to the community as an initial step to achieving a sustainable society. They hope that the Decade would “enable the community would learn to face the challenges of the present and future and leaders to make relevant decisions for a viable world.”
“Education alone cannot achieve a more sustainable future; however, without education and learning for sustainable development, we will not be able to reach that goal” (UNESCO.org)
You can make a difference using your own actions, and by helping the people around you understand what sustainability is all about. It might be a gesture as small as cleaning at your local park, or as big as teaching your community how to protect the environment. Every person needs to take part in order to make a sustainable society for the generations to come.