Do we really need a single definition of sustainability?
There are said to be hundreds of definitions of sustainability and I often come across people who think this is a problem. But is it?
Firstly, there is a dictionary definition of the word sustainable (-ility): able to be maintained at a certain rate or level which gives the broad idea we are after.
Secondly, the ‘agreed’ definition of sustainable development, the Brundtland definition is hardly a role model, being so bland as to be almost meaningless in a practical sense:
“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Thirdly, any other attempt to get a universally agreed definition will end up with a similarly lowest-common denominator result – hardly likely to inspire;
Fourth, setting a definition in stone will restrict thinking, not fire it up. Let people think freely, re-frame the question, innovate.
Fifth, don’t we have more important things to do? Like making it happen. We need to be action-oriented, learning by doing, gaining understanding as we move forward, rather than disappearing up our own whatsits on a theoretical debate on semantics.
My advice? Pick your favourite one, or make up your own, and use that.