Definitions of Sustainable Development

The phrase “sustainable development” means different things to different people. Here are a collection of some of them:

 “positive socioeconomic change that does not undermine the ecological and social systems upon which communities and societies are dependent.”

” development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

– World Commission on Environment and Development

 “the deliberate effort to ensure that community development not only enhances the local economy, but also the local environment and quality of life.”

– PLACE3S Planning Method, Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development

 ” long term health and vitality – cultural, economic, environmental, and social.”

– Sustainable Seattle Indicators, 1995

“living on interest, not drawing down capital”

– Paul Wilson, NorthWest Report

“development that maintains or enhances economic opportunity and community well-being while protecting and restoring the natural environment upon which people and economies depend.”

– An Act from the legislature of the State of Minnesota

” providing for a secure and satisfying material future for everyone, in a society that is equitable, caring, and attentive to basic human needs.”

– William Rees, Defining Sustainable Development

“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.”

– Robert Gilman, president of Context Institute

” the management of our resources in such a way that we can fulfill our economic, social, cultural, and aesthetic needs without permanent impairment to the resource base and the life support systems on which we all depend.”

– Environmental Council of Alberta, Conservation Strategies in Canada

 “essentially requir[ing] human societies to take into account the long-range consequences of their actions.”

– World Resources Institute, The Environmental Almanac

Shelterforce is the only independent, non-academic publication covering the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization.


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