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Sustainability: Often Referenced, Rarely Defined

Sustainability: Often Referenced, Rarely Defined

Kate Vavrousek

When words are overused, their meanings can sometimes become diluted. For example, “sustainability” has been used over and over again, in many different contexts – and has been spun many ways by politicians, companies, and the media. However, it is reasonable to say that sustainability can be defined as the production of goods and services with an eye toward the future, so that generations to come will be able to enjoy the resources that are available today. This is a demanding definition, because it requires that in order to be sustainable, our resources need to be preserved over the long-term in a short-term world.

Understandably, there are different responses to the question of how to be “sustainable.” Responses to this question include simple living, technological innovation, and corporate social responsibility, among many others. They all have a common goal, but their approaches are vastly different. An underlying question among responses is whether top-down or bottom-up strategies are more effective in promoting sustainability.

In upcoming posts, this question will continue to be explored, by examining different policies, institutions, groups, measurements, and more. Rethinking prosperity is essential to answering the question of sustainability. Below are a couple videos that expand on this idea.

“The Story of Stuff” is a very well known video, detailing how we get our “stuff” and how our habits of excessive consumerism are unsustainable. The second video, from the makers of “The Story of Stuff” is “The Story of Solutions” – and argues that we have to change our goal from growth to prosperity. We know there is a problem – so now we have to figure out how to solve it.

 

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