History of Sustainability

Lorenzo Baronti  <img src="" alt="Trulli" width="25" height="25">
Lorenzo Baronti Trulli

Masters in Circular Economy - Università degli Studi della Tuscia

What is sustainability?

Sustainability, nowadays is one of the most pronounced words we hear everyday, but what is it in particular? This is the main topic in the latest article on our Blog at Alkebulan.

This term has been commonly defined as the development model capable of ensuring the satisfaction of the needs of the present generation without compromising the possibility of future generations to realize their own.

Being sustainable does not just mean to be respectful with the environment, it means that what you are doing, whatever it is, is something durable in the future, respectful for the people around you and accessible

To achieve a sustainable development of human societies it is necessary that:

The story of sustainability

Since the dawn of the history of modern economic thought, economists have been concerned about the scarcity of some of the factors of production, especially arable land, and the possibility that economic growth would stop. Classical economists were aware that the availability of natural resources could be a limiting factor in economic growth.

Both Adam Smith (1723-1790) and Malthus (1766-1834) took up the idea that the scarcity of natural resources can be an obstacle to growth, underlining the limitation of natural resources in the face of an ever-increasing population. They took into account natural limits and in particular of arable land, ending up writing that demographic growth involves a decline in capital and production and consequently in economic growth: not everyone will be able to have their “banquet de la nature”. It is easy to see how close it already was to an absolutely current and modern vision of equity, at least at an intergenerational level, of development represented by equal access to the “banquet de la nature”, therefore to a “portion” of natural resources.

An identical conclusion was announced by of the Club of Rome when, in 1972, the report “The limits of growth” was published which, on the hypothesis of an exponential increase in the population, industrial production and exploitation of the planet’s natural resources, heralded the end of growth as the only remedy. The golden period of the concept of “zero growth” as a goal for humanity was very short, in fact, following the two oil shocks (1974 and 1979) and the economic recession, most countries experienced a period of economic growth at a level actually close to zero, characterized by high inflation, under-employment and overall increasing pollution levels.

Therefore sustainability refers to the environmental, economic and social fields, the main characteristic in fact is the process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the investment plan, the orientation of technological development and institutional changes are all in harmony and enhance the current and future potential in order to meet human needs and aspirations. Sustainable development, first introduced in 1987 by the Bruntland Report of the World Commission for Environment and Development, means development aimed at satisfying the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, which can then be satisfied through a circular and sustainable approach,

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

The concept of sustainability has developed so fast in the past years that it was quickly recognized as one of the main aspects to take into account for countries all over the world.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals SDGs (SDGs) and the 169 sub-goals associated with them constitute the vital core of the 2030 Agenda. They take into account in a balanced way the three dimensions of sustainable development. For the first time, a single policy document brings together sustainable development and the fight against poverty.

The Sustainable Development Goals must be achieved by 2030 globally by all UN member countries. This means that every country on the planet is called to make its contribution to jointly tackle these great challenges. In addition, incentives will have to be found to encourage non-governmental interlocutors to participate more actively in sustainable development.

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