Definitions of sustainability
Sustainability can be quite a malleable term. While most people understand its intention intuitively, it’s difficult to actually pin down since it can cover so many domains. The World Commission on Environment and Development, known more popularly as the Brundtland Commission, created one of the best-known and often used definitions:
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The Natural Step, in another widely-adopted framework, goes on to lay out four system conditions, derived from the laws of thermodynamics, through which such a state can be achieved:
In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing...
1. concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust,
2. concentrations of substances produced by society,
3. degradation by physical means
and, in that society. . .
4. people are not subject to conditions that systemically undermine their capacity to meet their needs
 Our Common Future, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Published as Annex to General Assembly document A/42/427, Development and International Co-operation: Environment August 2, 1987.
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