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Definitions of Sustainable Development

Depicted below are some common and well-respected descriptions of sustainable development:

"Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." [United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development - March, 1987]

"Then I say the earth belongs to each generation during its course, fully and in its own right, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence." [Thomas Jefferson - September 6, 1789]

"Sustainability refers to the ability of a society, ecosystem, or any such ongoing system to continue functioning into the indefinite future without being forced into decline through exhaustion of key resources." [Robert Gilman, President of Context Institute - Fall, 1986]

"Sustainability is the emerging doctrine that economic growth and development must take place and be maintained over time, within the limits set by ecology in the broadest sense and by the interrelations of human beings and their works, the biosphere and the physical and chemical laws that govern it." [William D. Ruckelshaus, ´Toward a Sustainable World´, Scientific American - September, 1989]

"The word sustainable has roots in the Latin subtenir, meaning 'to hold up' or 'to support from below'. A community must be supported from below by its inhabitants, both present and future. Certain places, through the peculiar combination of physical, cultural, and, perhaps, spiritual characteristics, inspire people to care for their community. These are the places where sustainability has the best chance of taking hold." [Muscoe Martin, ´A Sustainable Community Profile´, from Places - Winter, 1995]

"A sustainable community effort consists of a long-term, integrated, systems approach to developing and achieving a healthy community by jointly addressing economic, environmental and social issues. Fostering a strong sense of community and building partnerships and consensus among key stakeholders are also important elements of such efforts. The focus and scale of sustainability efforts depend on local conditions, including resources, politics, individual actions, and the unique features of the community. The sustainable communities approach has been applied to issues as varied as urban sprawl, inner-city and brownfield redevelopment, economic development and growth, ecosystem management, agriculture, biodiversity, green buildings, energy conservation, watershed management and pollution prevention. Many of these issues and other community problems cannot easily be addressed by traditional approaches or traditional elements within our society. Many people feel it is better to address such problems through a more collaborative and holistic systems approach because such problems are diffuse, multidisciplinary, multiagency, multistakeholder and multisector in nature." [Beth E. Lachman, Critical Technologies Institute, ´Linking Sustainable Community Activities to Pollution Prevention: A Sourcebook´ - April, 1997]