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Sustainability Research Guide

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Sustainability Defined

Image:  Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation, edited by Tom Theis and Jonathan Tomkin (Rice University, OpenStax CNX, 2015)


The Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development:  Our Common Future (also known as the Brundtland Commission Report) was released in 1987 under the auspices of the United Nations. Its definition of sustainable development remains a common starting point for discussion:

"Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The concept of sustainable development does imply limits - not absolute limits but limitations imposed by the present state of technology and social organization on environmental resources and by the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities. But technology and social organization can be both managed and improved to make way for a new era of economic growth. The Commission believes that widespread poverty is no longer inevitable. Poverty is not only an evil in itself, but sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations for a better life.  A world in which poverty is endemic will always be prone to ecological and other catastrophes."