May 6, 2022 - 5 minutes read

Pillars of Focus to Entrench Sustainable Living

By Grace Marione

Pillars of Focus to Entrench Sustainable Living

Sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behaviour indefinitely in order to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUNC), sustainability is the capacity to improve the quality of human life within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s supporting ecosystems. 

Sustainability is linked with three pillars that enable its structure:

  • Environmental pillar
  • Social pillar 
  • Economic pillar

If any of the pillars is weak, the system as a whole is unstable. The three pillars of sustainability state that all the pillars must be sustainable to fully address sustainability issues. Of the three pillars, the most important is environmental sustainability – because all the two pillars are dependent on the greater system, they live within the environment. 

Environmental Sustainability

Is the ability of the environment to support a defined level of environmental quality and natural resources extraction rates indefinitely. Environmental sustainability refers to the natural environment’s ability to stay productive and resilient in order to support human life. It relates to ecosystem integrity and carrying capacity of the natural environment. It requires that natural capacity be sustainably used as a source of economic inputs and as a sink for waste. This implies that natural resources must be harvested no faster than they can be generated while wastes must be emitted no faster that they can be assimilated by the environment. The effects of climate change provide a convincing argument for the need for environmental sustainability. Climate change refers to significant and long-lasting changes in the climate system like warming of the atmosphere and oceans, diminishing ice levels and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases caused by natural climate variability or by human activities.

Social Sustainability

This is a system’s ability to function at a defined degree of social well-being and harmony indefinitely, such as a country, family, or organisation. Equity, empowerment, accessibility, participation, cultural variety, and institutional stability are all aspects of social sustainability. In a socially unstable system, there are problems like war endemic, poverty, widespread injustice and low education rates. The theory of social sustainability’ posts that the alleviation of poverty should neither entail unwarranted environmental destruction nor economic instability; rather, it should aim to alleviate poverty within the existing environmental and economic resource base of the society.

Social sustainability entails fostering the development of people, communities and cultures to help achieve meaningful life, drawing on proper healthcare, human rights, education, gender equity and equality, peace and stability across the globe. It is difficult to achieve because the social dimension appears to be complex and overpowering. Unlike the environmental and economic systems, where flows and cycles are plainly visible, the dynamics inside the social system are highly intangible and difficult to represent. It is not the goal of social sustainability to meet everyone’s needs. Rather, it aims at providing enabling conditions for everyone to have the capacity to realise their needs, if they so desire. 

Economic Sustainability

The ability of an economy to support a defined level of economic production indefinitely. Economic sustainability implies a system of production that satisfies present consumption levels without compromising the future needs. Human life on earth is supported and maintained by utilising the limited natural resources found on the earth. Due to population growth, human needs such as food, clothing and housing increase, but the means and resources available in the world cannot be increased to meet the requirements forever. The main concern seems to be on economic growth, rather than on important components like the impact of depletion and pollution. 

Forms of living sustainably:

  • Reorganising living conditions in the form of eco-villages, eco-municipalities, and sustainable cities.
  • Reappraising economic sectors (permaculture, green building, and sustainable agriculture) or work practices (sustainable architecture).
  • Developing new technologies (green technologies, renewable energy, etc.)
  • Making adjustments in individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources generations too.

Economists have theorised that economic growth eventually has a detrimental effect on the environment. However the development of countries beyond post-industrial economies eventually culminates in a healthier and better environment. 

Therefore, it can be concluded that, nearly everything man does or plans to do on earth has implications for the sustainability of the environment, economy or society, and for that matter the continued existence and wellbeing of the human race.

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