What is sustainability? Definition and explanation:
The term sustainability describes a thinking principle that leads to acting responsibly in the use of resources on an economic, ecological and social level. At the heart of sustainable thinking is the harmonious coexistence of man and nature. Sustainability is often equated with the concept of sustainability. In this context, sustainability refers above all to the use of resources in a way that preserves the livelihoods of nature, also for future generations.
Definition and history of sustainability
The term sustainability was derived from the verb "sustain", which means "to stay for a long time" or "to be in the long term". The corresponding noun was first formulated in the early 18th century and originally comes from the forestry. Hans Carl von Carlowitz used the word in his "Sylvicultura oeconomica", the first closed treatise on the management of the forest from the year 1713. In it, the chief captain and founder of the concept of sustainability pointed out that only as many trees should be felled as by sowing new plants and reforestation.
The concept of sustainability was gradually extended to various areas of life in the 20th century, including energy and agriculture, everyday life and transport. As a principle of action today, it is based on the three pillars of economy, social affairs and ecology. Above all in politics, it serves as the guiding principle for dealing responsibly, socially and, above all, environmentally friendly with resources. Basically, sustainability, as with Carlowitz's term, is about extracting raw materials from nature only when they can regenerate.
In many cultures around the world, sustainable sourcing of raw materials prior to contact with Western industrial nations has been and is closely linked to comprehensive protection of the ecosystem. Neither livestock farming nor the cultivation of crops endangered the stability of the ecosystem among indigenous peoples. Traditional farming methods have enabled the conservation of resources over several millennia, through a respectful approach to nature and cultural and religious attachment to the earth.
The economic development of recent centuries, and especially the industrial revolution, brought with it a turning point that was and is increasingly linked to the exploitation of resources. To date, conventional economic measures and the modern way of life of humans go hand in hand with the destruction of whole ecosystems as well as a significant reduction of biological diversity (see Biodiversity). For several decades, sustainability has become increasingly important as a guiding principle and is the subject of targeted political measures. Sustainability became a central political concept in 1992 when, at the United Nations International Environmental Conference in Rio de Janeiro, there was talk of global sustainable development at social and economic level for the first time. Since then, sustainability has become a buzzword that is abused by many companies for advertising purposes. Increasingly, consumers are to decide to buy products, from food to commodities that were allegedly produced sustainably.
Objectives of the sustainability concept
Today, both ecologically and economically defined definitions and core elements of the term sustainability exist, with many interdisciplinary goals formulated. All approaches are based on measures to ensure the continued existence of resources and to preserve or improve the state of nature and the environment. The interest lies both in the present and in the future, so it always has a strong temporal relation. In order to ensure this, the rate of resource extraction must by no means exceed that of its regeneration potential. In addition, emissions of greenhouse gases (see: greenhouse effect) on a global scale must not exceed the capacity of the environment to absorb them. If non-renewable resources are used, consumption must be offset by increasing the stock of renewable energy sources accordingly.
For companies that operate sustainably, this means above all reducing CO2 emissions and using renewable energies. In agriculture and the production of economic goods, durable and natural raw materials should always be used. Other important measures include the drastic reduction of waste and the use of compostable or reusable materials. In addition to economic and political goals, changes in the behavior of each individual are also essential to sustainable behavior. Above all, the people in the western industrial nations have to restrict their consumption behavior. Only in this way can they make their contribution to maintaining the stability of their livelihoods and those of future generations.