What is Sustainability?
The first step in creating a sustainable future is building a foundation where everyone knows exactly what the ground rules are and trusts that they will be applied equally and equitably. This can only occur by first adopting an ecologically sound and legally defensible definition of sustainability. This will provide the consistency necessary for planning, a tool to analyze proposals, and a yardstick to measure progress. Here is the definition, which contains three necessary clauses which inform, support and strengthen each other:
1) Integrate human social and economic lives into the environment in ways that tend to enhance or maintain rather than degrade or destroy the environment;
2) A moral imperative to pass on our natural inheritance, not necessarily unchanged, but undiminished in its ability to meet the needs of future generations;
3) Entails determining, and staying within, the balance point amongst population, consumption, and waste assimilation so that bioregions, watersheds and ecosystems can maintain their ability to recharge, replenish, and regenerate.
Sustainability provides a common goal that peace, justice, and democracy advocates can use as the "big tent" to achieve critical mass and support effective coalitions for change. Sustainability is not an abstract concept, it is life, and provides a different and qualitatively better way of being in the world. Perhaps sustainability can be best understood through its opposite--death to the planet--known as ecocide. After all, there will be no peace, justice, economy, or democracy on a dead planet.
Concepts that emerge directly from the definition of sustainability include the fact that an area can't consider itself sustainable at the expense of another region, and that sustainability is not exclusively an environmental movement; it is a community movement.