The Sustainable City Forum (SCF 1992) stated that sustainability is a concept in evolution. The “Limits to Growth” (Club of Rome 1972),(Ecologist 1977) debate was one of its origins. Bruntland (1987) coined the famous definition of sustainable development as;
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. And overriding priority should be given to the essential needs of the worlds poor… Development involves a progressive transformation of economy and society. Even the narrow notion of physical sustainability implies a concern for social equity between generations, a concern that must logically be extended to equity within each generation.
Gro Harlem Bruntland said at the Sir Peter Scott Lecture in Bristol on 8th October 1986: (SCF 1992), (Pearce 1989),
There are many dimensions to sustainability. First it requires the elimination of poverty and deprivation.
Second it requires the conservation and enhancement of the resource base which alone can ensue that the elimination of poverty is permanent. Third it requires a broadening of the concept of development so that it covers not only economic growth, but also social and cultural development. Fourth, and most important it requires the unification of economics and ecology in decision making at all levels.
IUCN/UNEP/WWF 1991 outlines the principles of a sustainable society;
Living sustainably depends on accepting a duty to seek harmony with other people and with nature. The guiding rules are that people must share with each other and care for the Earth. Humanity must take no more from nature than nature can replenish. This in turn means adopting life styles and development paths that respect and work within nature’s limits. It can be done without rejecting the many benefits that technology has brought, provided that technology also works within those limits.
There is a duty of care for other people and other forms of life, now and in the future. The aim is to improve the quality of human life, a process enabling humans to realize their potential, build self- confidence, and lead lives of dignity and fulfilment.
There should be deliberate action to conserve the Earth’s vitality and diversity.
The depletion of non – renewable resources should be minimised.
The Earth’s carrying capacity should not be exceeded.
The ethic for living sustainably requires people to re-examine their values and alter their behaviour.
Communities should be enabled to care for their “own” environments.
Governmental frameworks are needed to integrate and achieve sustainability. A global alliance is needed. (IUCN).
Friends of the Earth and the PSI define sustainability in the context of four principles. (Elkin 1991).
The effects of any human activity must consider the needs and aspirations of future generations, of your great grandchildren’s great grandchildren.
The planetary support systems and a minimum environmental ‘capital’ stock should be maintained.
The full and true environmental cost of any human activity should be taken into account. The precautionary principle should be used.
It is very difficult to define sustainability constraints, although work is being undertaken on critical loads and habitats. It is better to define development paths which will not breach possible constraints.
Futurity can be understood as inter-generational equity. Intra-generational equity, between the first and third worlds, between women and men, between adults and children, the young and the old, the able and disabled people, the poor and the rich, is the third principle of sustainability.
The entire planet cannot achieve Western resource consumption levels and these pathways are not sustainable for the long term future.
Participation is a logical result of seriously addressing equity. Everyone’s views matter. Government becomes responsible for ensuring participatory,
cooperative action occurs. Everyone needs to be enabled to share equally in the processes of decision making and implementation.