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When Did The Term ‘Sustainability’ Start Being Used?

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Sustainability: History Of The Word And The Movement

The term “sustainable development” was first used in 1969, more than 50 years ago! And it’s more relevant now than ever.

Climate change is real and happening right now. We’re already seeing its effects on our weather patterns, food supply, and water availability. But we can still take action to combat climate change effects, and that’s what sustainability is all about.

It’s not just a buzzword anymore; sustainability practices are a necessity. 

But it’s also not just recently brought up. The idea of sustainability has been around for a while now, and that’s what we’ll be talking about in this article.

Etymology Of Sustainability

The word “sustainability” came from the Latin verb “sustentāre.”

The Latin verb sustentāre means “to sustain” or to “support”, “back-up”, or “care.”

Definition Of Sustainability

Oxford Dictionary defines the word “sustainability” as a noun that means “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.”

In other words, it is the ability to maintain a process over time. 

For the sustainability movement, that “process” is the planet and human life. 

Sustainability simply means “sustaining life.” We’re not talking about living off the land here; instead, we’re talking about sustaining ourselves through our use of resources.

The Sustainability movement or sustainability development refers to the concept of meeting the present human needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This definition of sustainability is often used when discussing environmental issues. But sustainability practices also apply to economic and social issues. 

Brief History Of Sustainability

In 1713, a German forestry handbook was published that used a new word: Nachhaltigkeit.

Translated in English, the word meant “sustained yield.”

It referred to the practice of only harvesting enough trees as needed yearly. This is done to ensure that the forest can naturally regenerate trees and that we have more to reap in the future. Soon, Nachhaltigkeit also included protection of other items used for food, such as animals, fish, and plants. 

The term “sustainability” first appeared in an international agreement signed by 33 African nations in 1969 under the banner of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

That same year, the US government formed the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Their guidelines have had a major influence on the development of theory and practice in global environmental policy.

As a result of the growing sustainability movement, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was also established in 1969. 

The law that constituted the NEPA mentioned sustainable development. There, sustainable development was defined as: “economic development that may have benefits for current and future generations without harming the planet’s resources or biological organisms.”

The core concept and term sustainability that talks about humanity’s future were first used in 1972 in a British book, Blueprint for Survival.

Then, in 1978 United Nations used the term “sustainability” in a document, and it gained even more popularity.

Green brands, as we know them today, started in 1993. Businesses started using sustainability as a selling point. 

In 2015, the UN General Assembly published their Sustainable Development Goals, which they set to achieve by 2030. 

The rise of sustainability as a concept is rooted in our search for the balance of resources, supplies, and demands. 

Even before the term “sustainable development” was coined, the issue of managing resources has long been discussed. Since the late 1700s, in fact, even conservationism began long before the 1960s.

Although the term “sustainability” was rare before the 1970s, the concept definitely isn’t.

The Future Of Sustainability (UN-GA Sustainable Development Goals)

The UN General Assembly, aka UN-GA, is the United Nation’s main policy-making organ. 

It is comprised of all Member States and provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full range of international issues.

Each of the United Nations’ 193 member states has equal votes.

And the UN General Assembly has deemed sustainability one of the important issues that we must tackle. 

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are divided into three categories: 

  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Economic Sustainability
  • Social Sustainability

Each category includes several goals, which cover different aspects of sustainability.

Some goals relate directly to food production and consumption, including reducing hunger and improving nutrition. Protecting natural resources and promoting sustainable agriculture is also included. There’s also ensuring access to safe drinking water. 

Others address broader topics, such as ending poverty and building resilient infrastructure. Providing universal health care is also included.

Investing in sustainability initiatives will address core drivers of climate change and build climate resilience.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1: No poverty

Goal 2: Zero hunger (No hunger)

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

Goal 4: Quality education

Goal 5: Gender equality

Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Goal 10: Reduced inequality

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

Goal 13: Climate action

Goal 14: Life below water

Goal 15: Life on land

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Goal 17: Partnership for the goals

Why Is Sustainability Important?

Sustainability is important because we basically co-exist with our planet. We need each other, and we depend on each other.

Without sustainability, both the planet and the inhabitants will suffer.

We need to be sustainable because the planet is running out of natural resources. Our world is becoming increasingly polluted, and climate change threatens our future. So when we take care of ourselves and our planet, we help ensure that there will be enough for generations to come.

Sustainable living is important because it helps us live better lives. We’re not just talking about saving the planet; we’re talking about improving our health, reducing stress, and enjoying life more.

When we live sustainably, we’re able to use resources efficiently and reduce wastage and pollution. 

We save on water and energy usage, and we protect wildlife habitats. We improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately our health. We can even save on financial resources. 

Aside from dealing with the climate emergency, the benefits of utilizing sustainability practices are endless.

Is Sustainability Attainable?

If sustainability has been an issue for more than half a century now and it’s still an issue – is sustainability even achievable?

Nothing is impossible if we work together.

It is a huge challenge, and many have been taking it on for decades now. But, sustainability has never been bigger. With the help of more advanced technology, more and more people are being aware and doing the right sustainability practices. 

The key is to be realistic. Don’t expect to save the world overnight. Instead, set small goals and work towards them over time. And remember that sustainability isn’t just about reducing things. It’s also about increasing efficiency. 

Final Words

Sustainability is a term that has become increasingly relevant over the past decade – and for good reasons. 

Sustainability isn’t easy. There are plenty of challenges involved in making changes. Everyone from huge businesses to individuals must work together. We must achieve eco-development from simple sustainability practices to corporate sustainability.

However, if we want to ensure that future generations will inherit a liveable planet with adequate resources, we must act now.

So let’s commit to making positive changes today, and together, we can create a brighter tomorrow.

Paul Wells

Paul Wells

Our world needs more attention today than it ever has! My name is Paul and I run A website to provide information and resources which addresses sustainable living. Looking after our planet starts today and I aspire to spread the message globally in a joint effort to make the change, we so desperately need.

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