Have you ever thought about how long humans have been around and how long its taken for humans to cause the extinction of almost 500 species(1), imbalance the ocean’s acidity(2), and kill human and wildlife due to heavy pollution(3)?
Humans began our journey on Earth approximately six million years ago. Advanced traits in human behavior such as symbolic expression and art started roughly 100,000 years ago(4). Humans have been around for a long time; why is most of the destruction we’ve caused mainly from the past 300 years?
Historically humans were nomadic, moving with the environment to find shelter, food, clothing, and other necessities according to Jared Diamond’s book, Guns Germs and Steel(5). Following the development of agriculture we settled in one location and increased our population thus beginning to leave a (very minimal) footprint in concentrated areas.
Overtime, most communities developed a system to know how and what to take and give back to the environment to continually fuel a symbiotic relationship of survival. This in itself is a definition of sustainability. The freedom and ability to live fully without taking opportunities away from the next generation.
Fast forward to the the Industrial Revolution Era. Populations greatly increased once again along with advancements in textiles, energy, and transportation(6). No doubt, a pivotal time that advanced societies within developed nations, it also lead to the greater consumption of raw materials and amounts of pollution produced in concentrated areas.
In America, a small early interest towards the value of environmental conservation began in the early 1900s following the initiation of National Parks by President Theodore Roosevelt. Momentum for environmental consciousness began a little more than 60 years later some would argue when Rachel Carson released her book, Silent Spring starting a snowball reaction of mass interest. Beginning in the 1960s, the environmentalist movement began to question the correlation of development and limits of growth and mass production.
In 1987 a modern definition of sustainable development was offered in the culminating landmark report, ‘Our Common Future’ stating the definition still used today. Since the 80s, academic discussions and debates sprung up furthering the conversation(7).
At nearly the same time, ecological economists were discussing sustainability in terms of bouncing back from shocks and stresses and adopting stable states along with the defined links relating ecological systems and footprint analysis with alternative national accounting systems(7). Soon thereafter, elements of the debate created the triple bottom line bringing sustainability affairs into business planning and accounting practices. By the end of the 90s, a wider population emerged interested in political concerns in relationship with the environment, economics, business planning, social justice, and human well-being(7).
Today, there is still no set definition of sustainability; however, the most globally accepted interpretation is taken from what is commonly known as the Brundtland Commission Report(8).
“ Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Elaborating on the Triple Bottom Line
There are 3 components that make up the triple bottom line: social, environmental, and economic.
Social: Variables dealing with community, education, social resources and equity, health, quality of life
Environmental: Variables dealing with natural resources, pollution, energy conservation, wildlife protection
Economic: Variables dealing with cash flow, GDP, development, global equity
Each of these topics influences the ability for a community to achieve sustainable living.
Working to achieve a sustainable future, the United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more Here ⤑
The mission of sustainability is to achieve a future we can all look forward to. One that benefits everybody and all things without limitation to time or location.
Everyone has a space. so, what interests you?
A Few Global Issues
The Earth's population is 7.5 billion as of 2018 (9).
Scientists agree the Earth's population capacity is 10 billion (10).
Water scarcity affects over 40% of the population & is expected to rise (11).
815 million people are undernourished due to food insecurity (12).
767 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day (13).
Over 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity (14).
Almost 75% of the word's poor are affected directly by land degradation (15).
Globally, 750 million women and girls were married before the age of 18 and at least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have undergone FGM (16).
Open Ocean sites show current levels of acidity have increased by 26 per cent since the start of the Industrial Revolution (17).
If we want to work to resolve any issues we’ve created, we must first understand all subjects of influence and focus on systematically resolving the problem at hand.
External Links & Further Reading
Guns Germs and Steel (I recommend reading the actual book otherwise here is a brief summary)