The science behind sustainability

This journal article really brings the science of Sustainability into focus. So often, consumers are sucked into a market trend that they know nothing about. This is a great method of learning about sustainability from an academic perspective, and helps the consumer bust the myths surrounding it on their own.

Some aspects to highlight are:

The four principles of Newman & Kenworthy (1993):

1. The elimination of poverty, especially in the Third World, is necessary not just on human grounds but as an environmental issue.

2. The First World must reduce its consumption of resources and production of wastes.

3. Global cooperation on environmental issues is no longer a soft option.

4. Change towards sustainability can occur only with community-based approaches that take local cultures seriously.

Requirements of Sustainable development contain many dimensions. The main dimensions consist of maintaining the integrity of biophysical systems; offering better services for more people; and providing freedom from hunger, nuisance, and deprivation. To these one may add choice, opportunity, and access to decision making—aspects of equity within and across generations .

According to this paper, Principles of Sustainability are as follows:

Human-ecological systems integrity: Build human-ecological relations to maintain the integrity of biophysical systems in order to maintain the irreplaceable life support functions upon which human well-being depends.
Sufficiency and opportunity: Ensure that everyone has enough for a decent life and that everyone has opportunities to seek improvements in ways that do not compromise future generations' possibilities for sufficiency and opportunity.
Equity: Ensure that sufficiency and effective choices for all are pursued in ways that reduce dangerous gaps in sufficiency and opportunity (and health, security, social recognition, political influence, etc.) between the rich and the poor.
Efficiency and throughput reduction: Provide a larger base for ensuring sustainable livelihoods for all through reducing threats to the long term integrity of socio-economic systems by avoiding waste and reducing overall material and energy use per unit of benefit.
Democracy and civility: Build our capacity to apply sustainability principles through a better informed and better integrated package of administrative, market, customary and personal decision-making practices.
Precaution: Respect uncertainty, avoid even poorly understood risks of serious or irreversible damage to the foundations for sustainability, design for surprise and manage for adaptation.
Immediate and long-term integration: Apply all principles of sustainability at once, seeking mutually supportive benefits.

It is important to understand that moving towards true sustainability means a change in political, human rights, scientific, consumer, corporate, and ecological thinking. Learning the impacts of sustainability on society as a whole is what will move the world towards embracing its practice as a whole.

Jihae Lim