To understand while the need to sustain the environment we must first define what sustainability is. Sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely. According to Herman Daly, one of the early pioneers of ecological sustainability, he looked at the problem from a maintenance of natural capital viewpoint and in 1990 he proposed that:
1. For renewable resources, the rate of harvest should not exceed the rate of regeneration (sustainable yield)
2. [For pollution] The rates of waste generation from projects should not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment (sustainable waste disposal); and
3. For nonrenewable resources the depletion of the nonrenewable resources should require comparable development of renewable substitutes for that resource.
Therefore, Environmental sustainability is the rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely then they are not sustainable.
Environmental Protection is among The Three Pillars of Sustainability and we all need to know what we need to do to protect the environment, whether that is recycling, reducing our power consumption by switching electronic devices off rather than using standby, by walking short journeys instead of taking the bus. Businesses are regulated to prevent pollution and to keep their own carbon emissions low. There are incentives to installing renewable power sources in our homes and businesses. Environmental protection is the third pillar and to many, the primary concern of the future of humanity. It defines how we should study and protect ecosystems, air quality, integrity and sustainability of our resources and focusing on the elements that place stress on the environment (6). It also concerns how technology will drive our greener future; the EPA recognized that developing technology and biotechnology is key to this sustainability, and protecting the environment of the future from potential damage that technological advances could potentially bring (1).
Primary Goals of Sustainability
The sustainable development professional network thinks, acts and works globally. In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development met to discuss and develop a set of goals to work towards; they grew out of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that claimed success in reducing global poverty while acknowledging there was still much more to do. The SDG eventually came up with a list of 17 items (8) which included amongst other things:
- The end of poverty and hunger
- Better standards of education and healthcare – particularly as it pertains to water quality and better sanitation
- To achieve gender equality
- Sustainable economic growth while promoting jobs and stronger economies
- All of the above and more while tackling the effects of climate change, pollution and other environmental factors that can harm and do harm people’s health, livelihoods and lives.
- Sustainability to include health of the land, air and sea
For sustainability to happen, people need to live in a system where high quality life is the norm. They need access to a clean healthy environment, a satisfactory level of economic well-being, and a robust level of social fulfillment.