Is Sustainability still Sustainable? – State of the World 2013 Report

state of sustainability

Discovered this book at the weekend on Kindle Cloud – the title intrigued me as it is common with a lot of thoughts of my own at the moment.

The first sentence of the first paragraph of chapter 1 really resonates with a lot of conversations that are happening in the property industry in Australia at the moment “We live today in an age of sustainababble, a cacophonous profusion of uses of the word sustainable to mean anything from environmentally better to cool”.

Indeed! I am only about 3 pages into the book and I know I am already going to love it.

The authors talk about the first use of the word sustainable in the Brundtland Commission in the late 1980s where it was used to with the following definition “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” and was used in trying to define such complex issues such as Sustainable Development.

And then, bam, end of the first page “By the turn of the millennium, however, the terms gained a life of their own – with no assurance that is was based on the Commission’s definition.”

And then “Through increasingly frequent vernacular use, it seemed, the word sustainable became a synonym for the equally vague and unquantifiable adjective green, suggesting some undefined environmental value, as in green growth or green jobs.”

I am definitely going to love this book – “no assurance”, “undefined environmental value”, “vague and unquantifiable”.

And “in recent years (sustainability) has morphed from its original meaning into something like ‘a little better for the environment that the alternative’ “.

Or the other common phrase I hear used in Australia a bit – ‘sustainability is about sustaining our unsustainability’.

So I will continue reading with much interest and no doubt inspiration to post more about the book. Its going to be revealing!

One question for all those of us involved in sustainable buildings – Can you assure that the building you are designing or constructing meets the original definition of sustainable in the Brundtland Commission? A reminder – “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

2 Comments on “Is Sustainability still Sustainable? – State of the World 2013 Report”

  1. A good point. You know things have gone wrong when people compete for “the most sustianable building” in the media. When did sustainability become relative?! The key thing will be to see if the industry learns, develops and evolves to a better understanding of sustainable development, or does it put it in the “too hard” basket and move onto the next fad?

    Hopefully its something we can influence for the better.

  2. Pingback: How to be green – use energy savings not energy credit « SIMON WILD

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