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Sustainability is a societal goal that broadly aims for humans to safely co-exist on planet Earth over a long time. Specific definitions of sustainability are difficult to agree on and therefore vary in the literature and over time. The concept of sustainability can be used to guide decisions at the global, national and individual level (e.g. sustainable living). Sustainability is commonly described along the lines of three dimensions (also called pillars): environmental, economic and social. Many publications state that the environmental dimension (also referred to as "planetary integrity" or "ecological integrity") should be regarded as the most important one. Accordingly, in everyday usage of the term, sustainability is often focused on the environmental aspects. The most dominant environmental issues since around 2000 have been climate change, loss of biodiversity, loss of ecosystem services, land degradation, and air and water pollution. Humanity is now exceeding several "planetary boundaries".
A closely related concept is that of sustainable development. The terms are often used synonymously. UNESCO formulated a distinction as follows: "Sustainability is often thought of as a long-term goal (i.e. a more sustainable world), while sustainable development refers to the many processes and pathways to achieve it." Both concepts have been criticized. One such criticism is that the concept is vague, ill-defined and merely a buzzword. Another is that sustainability as a goal might be impossible to reach; it has been pointed out that "no country is delivering what its citizens need without transgressing the biophysical planetary boundaries".
How the economic dimension of sustainability should be addressed is controversial. Scholars have discussed this aspect under the concept of "weak and strong sustainability". For example, there will always be tension between the ideas of "welfare and prosperity for all" and environmental conservation. Therefore, trade-offs are required. Approaches that decouple economic growth from environmental deterioration would be desirable but are difficult to implement.
There are many barriers to achieving sustainability, which must be addressed for a "sustainability transition" to become possible. Some sustainability barriers arise from nature and its complexity. Other barriers are "extrinsic" to the concept of sustainability. A number of extrinsic sustainability barriers are related to the dominant institutional frameworks where market mechanisms often fail for public goods. Some example steps humanity can take to transition to environmental sustainability include: maintaining nature's ecosystem services, reducing food waste, promoting dietary shifts towards plant-based foods, further reducing fertility rates and thus population growth, promoting new green technologies and adopting renewable energy sources while phasing out subsidies to energy production through fossil fuels. Global issues are difficult to tackle as they would require global solutions. However, existing global organizations (UN, WTO and others) are inefficient in enforcing current global regulation for example due to the lack of suitable sanctioning mechanisms.
Sustainability consists of fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations, while ensuring a balance between economic growth, environmental care and social well-being.
Sustainability improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystem and preserves natural resources for future generations. In the corporate world, sustainability is associated with an organization's holistic approach, taking into account everything, from manufacturing to logistics to customer service.
Sustainability is important for many reasons including: Environmental Quality – In order to have healthy communities, we need clean air, natural resources, and a nontoxic environment. Growth – UNTHSC's enrollment continues to grow, so we require more resources such as energy, water, and space.
- Reducing consumption of resources – such as water and energy.
- Better building practices to reduce energy and waste.
- More fuel efficient engines in cars and trucks.
- Increasing recycling – using recycled materials.
- Protection of forests all over the earth.
- Protector of soil all over the earth.