A word cloud with 'Sustainability' at teh centre, and smaller words including 'eco', 'organic', 'future', 'responsibility', 'society', 'reusab;e' and 'conservation'.
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What sustainability means for all of us

Sustainability is often defined being able to maintain ‘ecological balance’ whilst avoiding the depletion of natural resources. It can be defined as our human society developing in a manner that supports our social and economic development whilst ensuring the environment is protected and maintained. But how boring are these definitions? Not only are they boring, but they don’t adequately reflect what sustainability can mean for our world. They don’t adequately reflect just how valuable sustainability can be for all life on Earth. As such, I’d like to paint a picture for you all, to show you what a sustainable world can look like, and what it can mean. So, what does sustainability mean?

Sustainability means…

A society that allows everyone to thrive, whilst ensuring no one is left out. We’ve managed to resolve all conflicts and finally live in peace as a species – respecting how unique we all are, and how our differences act to make us better as a people. Everyone in society feels fairly represented, and their values are reflected in public policy and decisions. We’ve also squashed inequality in our laws, our institutes, and our society. Everyone experiences equal rights: all genders, people with disability, all ethnicities, all sociocultural groups. No one feels unsafe walking the streets at night simply because of who they are, or who they identify as. We’ve also developed effective means to combatting abuse in all its forms.

Sustainability means…

Living in a society that thrives without damaging the environment. We have a beautiful coexistence with all other organisms, where our lives do not detriment their existence. Our society no longer outputs a large amount of toxic, indecomposable waste into our lands or oceans. In fact, we’ve found ways to ensure the quality of life of all humans without destroying the quality of life of other species. For instance, we have taken steps to reduce our carbon footprints, to reuse all the materials that can be reused, and to make our consumption (energy, food, all other materials) effectively efficient. As such, there is no longer a need to search for Planet B because we’ve committed to making our life on Earth work.

Sustainability means…

Economic viability and stability. We no longer experience poverty anywhere, in any form. Everyone has adequate access to water, food, shelter and security. This means we’ve achieved a world where no parent can’t afford to put food on the table. Where no one fears eviction because they are living paycheck to paycheck. Our economic stability gives everyone some breathing space, facilitating the greatest period of innovation and creativity our society has ever seen.

Sustainability means…

A healthy and happy society. We have a world where infant mortality is low and maternal health is thriving. Average life expectancies are no longer determined by factors such as your postcode, your sociocultural status, or your wealth. Everyone has adequate access to health services, which have been supported to keep up with all aspects of health – including both physical and mental health. No one experiences stigma or discrimination. In fact, we’ve taken steps to ensure our society, our cities, our health systems and all of our infrastructure supports people of all abilities.

As you can see, sustainability means achieving quite a lot of things. Perhaps those of us aiming for sustainability are being overly optimistic. Perhaps sustainability can never completely be achieved. But, given the above picture I’ve painted, a sustainable world is definitely worth aiming for. Even if we can’t achieve a completely sustainable world, we can still achieve a lot of the above. And even a slightly more sustainable world can mean so much for so many people. It can mean so much to us as a species, and as a society. It can also mean so much for our planet, and for all the other species that depend on our planet just as much as we do. As such, aiming to live more sustainably, on the individual level right up to the international level, is one of the most important things we could do. And whilst changing our unsustainable habits can be difficult, it can be helpful to keep this picture of sustainability in your mind as a motivator. To continually remind us all of how important it is to keep taking actions to address the social and environmental issues in our lifestyles, our society and our built environment.