“Sustainability is a characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely.” according to Wikipedia.
The process I am interested in is that of humans living on planet Earth.
There are 3 major components: People, the planet and profits.
I need to start with the end. Profits are the driving motor for our global community. It is also what drives each individual in each interaction.
What I mean is that whatever we do, we try to benefit from it. In each interaction we put in time and effort and maybe money so that at the end we have something.
And if it is possible to get the same result for less time, effort and money we go for it.
The problem in our complicated world is that the time, effort and money is not always passed on to the person who gets the benefit.
One of the best examples is global warming. It takes relatively little to dig up coal and burn it to generate electricity. Great profits are made. But now we find that the real costs include the results from global warming. These costs are carried by the community of human beings, even though individual companies and people have profited.
No matter whether you are sentimental and like nature or you are a hardnosed business person, there is no denying that our lives are intricately linked to the well-being of a multitude of species and systems and processes that are all part of nature. Any imbalance in nature leads to a suffering of humans.
Many of the human actions have lead to unexpected problems elsewhere. In Australia, the introduction of cane toads are a well-known example. To fight beetles that were eating the crop, cane toads were introduced. Today they are still a plague.
Another example are our finite resources. Building a society that is dependent upon oil as its main source of energy is very short-sighted. (Peak Oil)
Naturally people come first. After all that is what I am and it still gives me the greatest joy to interact with others.
And anyway without humans, nature would look after itself anyway and we would not have to worry about sustainability.
But there is another aspect. Profits are often made with little regard to the impacts on human beings. Think of the sweatshops in Asia and Africa.
Sustainability – The Ideal Solution
So here is what sustainability means to me:
We use solutions that have a positive impact on the planet and care for people throughout the process of producing, using and discarding them. Additionally, they produce a profit for the company offering them and are no more expensive to me as a user.