Sustainability: what it really means and how it is put into action

The truth is that humans do not have too many certainties in our lives. For example, when we think about our planet, many questions come to mind:

Did God create it in seven days? Was it the product of pure chance? Are there other habitable worlds in space?

But the reality is that today none of them have an answer. The only thing we know for sure is that for now we have only one planet and that its resources are limited.s. Therefore, it is essential to bet on the sustainability.

If the human race, with its intelligence, science, and abilities, fails to make progress sustainable, our children or grandchildren will no longer be able to inhabit the planet.

But what does sustainability really mean? Is it possible to apply it individually? How is sustainable development put into action?

We will answer all these questions and many more in this post.

Sustainability: concept

The concept of sustainability refers to the balance of a species (in this case the human race) with the resources of the environment to which it belongs.

In other words, and as the Brundtland Report defines sustainability, it is about “meeting the needs of the current generation without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

In other words, sustainability means using natural resources below their renewal limits, thus maintaining a permanent balance.

The purpose of the concept from its different approaches will always be to preserve the quality of life of current generations, without prejudice to future needs, maintaining a good relationship with the environment to which we belong.

The problem is that it doesn’t seem like we are currently using resources sustainably. Instead, resources are wasted every day; both individually and, mainly, at an industrial level.

Crisis in sustainability: the case of food.

Let’s give an example of how critical the resource situation is today, and why it is necessary to apply sustainability policies immediately: food.

Currently, 1.3 billion tons of food ends up in the trash every year.

Yes, you read the number correctly: 1.3 billion tons of food wasted.
That amount of food wasted worldwide would be enough to feed all the hungry people on the planet. In addition to, of course, having a profound environmental impact: to produce and distribute that food, resources are also consumed that are wasted.

Isn’t it crazy, almost absurd, that having people die of malnutrition every day we are throwing away tons of food?

Well yes, that’s why applying sustainability policies is urgent. Well, although at home we can make small changes, a truly sustainable development can only be achieved with political, social and business commitment.

The four areas of sustainability

Many times the mistake is made of believing that sustainability is something that has to do only with the environment. For example, with taking care of the land or water. And while this is one of the legs of sustainable development, it is not the only one.

Actually, sustainability has four fundamental edges:

a. Environmental

It is the best known of the areas of sustainability. It refers to the efficient and rational use of natural resources, so that it is possible to improve the well-being of current societies without compromising the quality of life of future generations.

This implies taking into account the limits of renewal of resources, the cycles of nature, and achieving a balance between man and the environment.

But we must not believe that because it is the best known aspect of sustainability, it is the most important. Actually, what is really important is to find the balance between the 4 pillars.

b. Politics

As we already said, sustainability is not achieved individually. It is necessary that there are State policies at a global level that seek sustainability, and that guarantee respect for people and the environment. That is what the political edge of sustainable development is all about.

It also has to do with redistributing political and economic power, fostering solidarity relations between communities and regions to improve their quality of life and reduce dependency on communities by generating democratic structures.

c. Economic

Economic sustainability refers to carrying out practices that are economically profitable, but also socially and environmentally responsible. That is, aiming at economic growth, without neglecting social equity and environmental care.

This should take precedence in the agendas of all businessmen in the world, however, we still live in an economic system based on maximizing production and consumption at any cost, even if this means exploiting resources in an unlimited and non-responsible manner, and generating more Social inequality.

d. Social

To achieve balance, development must not perpetuate or deepen poverty, exclusion and inequality. It must aim to achieve equity and social justice, promoting the participation of societies in the generation (and distribution) of wealth.

For this, it is necessary to respect the human rights (economic, political, cultural, gender) of all communities in the world.

It also means supporting initiatives aimed at preserving traditions and the rights of regional communities over their territory.

The evictions of native communities from their lands for the exploitation of resources is one of the practices that most attacks this principle. The search for economic profitability prevails over the rights of the inhabitants, their culture, and environmental care.

On the contrary, cases like “Alma Verde”, an initiative in Colombia where women are in charge of reforestation tasks, protecting the region’s biodiversity, and obtaining a livelihood, are examples of Social Sustainability.

So, when we talk about advancing towards a sustainable paradigm, what we are doing is saying that economic prosperity should not necessarily be set aside, but rather that it has to seek a balance with environmental care and the quality of life of all societies in the world; so that no one is left out and so that the environment in which we live can be preserved.

The 26 principles for sustainability

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development It was signed in 1992, and already then it marked the basic principles for sustainability. They are, even today, one of the most important guides to address sustainable development.

If you are interested in the subject, you can read the full statement on the United Nations site, although this is the most important of each:

1. The priority for development is the human being.

two. Each State is sovereign of its territories and the resources that are in them.

3. Development must be equitable and think about future generations.

Four. Environmental protection must be central to the development process and not considered in isolation.

5. Eradicating poverty is an essential requirement for sustainable development.

6. Priority should be given to the situation of developing countries.

7. States must cooperate in a spirit of global solidarity in caring for the planet.

8. States must reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.

9. States must promote scientific knowledge that seeks to achieve sustainable development.

10. The best way to deal with environmental issues is with the participation of all interested citizens, at the appropriate level.

eleven. States should enact effective environmental laws.

12. International trade should aim at the economic growth and sustainable development of all countries.

13. States must develop national legislation regarding liability and compensation for victims of pollution and other environmental damage.

14. States must not transfer to another State activities and substances that cause environmental degradation.

fifteen. In order to protect the environment, States should widely apply the precautionary approach according to their capabilities.

16. National authorities should ensure that the polluter bears the costs of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.

17. An environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, should be undertaken for any proposed activity that could harm the environment.

18. In the event of any emergency situation that may produce sudden harmful effects on the environment, the affected State must be informed immediately and the international community must put itself at the service.

19. The same should happen in cases of transboundary environmental problems.

twenty. The full participation of women in this process must be ensured, as they play a fundamental role in environmental management and development.

twenty-one. The creativity, ideals and courage of the world’s youth should be mobilized to forge a global alliance aimed at achieving sustainable development and ensuring a better future for all.

22. States should recognize and support indigenous peoples, who play a key role in environmental management and development through their traditional knowledge and practices.

23. The environment and natural resources of the peoples subjected to oppression, domination and occupation must be protected.

24. War is, by definition, the enemy of sustainable development.

25. Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and inseparable.

26. States shall peacefully resolve all their environmental disputes by appropriate means under the Charter of the United Nations.

What can you do today for sustainability? 5 practical actions

If you have come this far, you have already realized that sustainability is, in reality, a matter of State. That it has to do with the way the world works, and not so much with the sum of individual actions. It may even make you angry to see how the policies of different countries seem not to accompany sustainable development.

However, all is not lost. Many of the great changes in history have been built from the bottom up, and not the other way around.

Therefore, if you want to start the change, you can take certain steps at home. No, they will not be final. But if we change the way we understand and use resources, perhaps one day their production logic will change as well.

1. Take care of energy

Unplug appliances that are not in use. Change the common lamps for those that are low consumption. Go solar whenever you can. Turn off the lights when you’re not home.

Electrical energy is an important environmental impact factor, and that is why using it rationally can make a big difference. Also, if we all produced energy from…