Environmental sustainability allows the demands of humanity to be met without imperiling the capability of future generations to meet their needs.
Assuming that Eric wants to pick cherries from a cherry tree. Eric now has two options. He can either grab an ax, cut down the cherry tree and pick up the cherries. Or he can look for a ladder, climb up and pick the cherries. Eric finds the first idea much more appealing, because, rather than struggling to even find a high enough ladder, he could chop down the cherry tree, bring the cherries down to the ground and easily pick them up. Eric is proud of himself for coming up with such a smart solution—but there is an obvious problem with his solution.
Eric now has a lot of cherries for his immediate needs, but he won’t have his needs met next year, because there won’t be a tree producing cherries. In other words, Eric didn’t sustain the natural resource, so it will no longer be available to him. Eric neglected the importance of environmental sustainability by chopping down the cherry tree.
In order to ensure that future generations can enjoy natural resources, we need to understand what environmental sustainability is and how we can contribute to a more sustainable way of living and a more sustainable way of doing business.
What is Environmental Sustainability?
To define environmental sustainability, we must first define sustainability. The word sustainability and sustain in English come from the old French word sostenir, meaning to “endure without failing or yielding.” It is also related to the word sustenance, or providing the nutritional basis of life. In other words, sustainability acts as the foundational building block of life on our planet.
According to the planetary boundaries model of sustainability, the environmental pillar of sustainability acts as the foundation on which the two other pillars (economic and social) rely. Without environmental sustainability, the physical environment won’t be able to support the economic and social pillars of sustainability, and that would be catastrophic indeed.
So environmental sustainability can be defined as the responsible interaction of humans with the environment such that we avoid depletion or degradation of natural resources, the loss of species and the disruption to the natural balance of gases within the atmosphere so as to allow for long-term environmental quality.
The practice of environmental sustainability helps to ensure that the needs of today’s population are met without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs.