The definition of “sustainability” is the study of how natural systems function, remain diverse and produce everything it needs for the ecology to remain in balance. It also acknowledges that human civilisation takes resources to sustain our modern way of life. There are countless examples throughout human history where a civilisation has damaged its own environment and seriously affected its own survival chances. Sustainability takes into account how we might live in harmony with the natural world around us, protecting it from damage and destruction.
We now live in a modern, consumerist and largely urban existence throughout the developed world and we consume a lot of natural resources every day. In our urban centres, we consume more power than those who live in rural settings and urban centres use a lot more power than average, keeping our streets and civic buildings lit, to power our appliances, our heating and other public and household power requirements. That's not to say that sustainable living should only focus on people who live in urban centres though, there are improvements to be made everywhere - it is estimated that we use about 40% more resources every year than we can put back and that needs to change. Sustainability and sustainable development focuses on balancing that fine line between competing needs - our need to move forward technologically and economically, and the needs to protect the environments in which we and others live. Sustainability is not just about the environment, it's also about our health as a society in ensuring that no people or areas of life suffer as a result of environmental legislation, and it's also about examining the longer term effects of the actions humanity takes and asking questions about how it may be improved.
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