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What does sustainability mean?

People can have very different views on sustainability. Here are three:

A United Nations perspective

The United Nations Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (1987), describes a sustainable future as one where people are able to meet their needs environmentally, socially, culturally, politically, and economically without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and aspirations (chapter 2, section 1).

A Māori perspective

From a Māori perspective, everything is connected: land, sea, and air. Relationships among people and relationships between people and the environment are all part of this larger whole. People have a kaitiaki/guardian responsibility for the natural environment.

Ko te oranga taiao, he oranga tangata.

A healthy environment is a healthy people.

A business perspective

Businesses often see sustainability in terms of being able to survive and grow. But their products and services depend ultimately on social and environmental resources. Increasingly, businesses are responding to customer demands that they be environmentally responsible and that they commit themselves to sustainable practices.

A shared responsibility

All perspectives on sustainability are responses to complex issues and reflect the values and knowledge of the people who hold them. EfS teachers and learners grapple with this multiplicity of views and understandings.

We all have responsibility for creating our future. It is only by sharing our knowledge, skills, and viewpoints that we are able to refine goals – personal, school, and community – and generate the fresh thinking needed to solve problems.

What a great time to be alive! Because this generation gets to essentially completely change the world.

Paul Hawken, Ecologist, 6 August 2008

Last updated September 11, 2020