Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the capacity to endure. In ecology, the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.
Sustainability has become a wide-ranging term that can be applied to almost every facet of life on Earth, from a local to a global scale and over various time periods. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. Invisible chemical cycles redistribute water, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon through the world's living and non-living systems, and have sustained life for millions of years. As the earth’s human population has increased, naturalecosystems have declined and changes in the balance of natural cycles has had a negative impact on both humans and other living systems.[citation needed]
There is now abundant scientific evidence that humanity is living unsustainably.[citation needed] Returning human use of natural resources to within sustainable limits will require a major collective effort. Since the 1980s, human sustainability has implied the integration of economic, social and environmental spheres to: “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”[1]
Efforts to live more sustainably can take many forms from reorganising living conditions (e.g., ecovillageseco-municipalities and sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (green buildingsustainable agriculture), or work practices (sustainable architecture), using science to develop new technologies (green technologiesrenewable energy), to adjustments in individual lifestyles.
Global principles
At the global level there are several key principles that underpin global sustainability:
  • Intergenerational equity - providing future generations with the same environmental potential as presently exists
  • Decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation - managing economic growth to be less resource intensive and less polluting
  • Integration of all pillars - integrating environmental, social and economic sectors when developing sustainability policies
  • Ensuring environmental adaptability and resilience - maintaining and enhancing the adaptive capacity of the environmental system
  • Preventing irreversible long-term damage to ecosystems and human health
  • Ensuring distributional equity - avoiding unfair or high environmental costs on vulnerable populations
  • Accepting global responsibility - assuming responsibility for environmental effects that occur outside areas of jurisdiction
  • Education and grassroots involvement - people and communities investigating problems and developing new solutions[47]