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Hagan Foundation Center for the Humanities

Sustainability - Community in Action


"Sustainability" is a word that is used and defined in many ways. Many people use the word "sustainable" to mean "environmentally friendly," or as a term that applies mainly to the development of the Third World. But sustainability means much more than that. When a resource is consumed at sustainable levels, people can continue to consume the same amount of that resource year in and year out, from our generation into the next. When a resource is used at unsustainable levels, sooner or later that resource will run out.

In 1990, the U.N. Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as "meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Policy Areas:

Venn diagram
Scheme of sustainable development:
at the confluence of three preoccupations

More broadly, sustainable development policies encompass three general policy areas: economic, environmental, and social. In support of this, several United Nations texts, most recently the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, refer to the "interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars" of sustainable development as economic development, social development, and environmental protection.

The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO, 2001) elaborates further the concept by stating that "...cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature;" it becomes "one of the roots of development understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence." In this vision, cultural diversity is the fourth policy area of sustainable development.


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