Sustainability is a term frequently used by our leaders (and planners) but is often not questioned or defined. The root word sustain implies that it means making something last. However, what does it really mean to sustain something and what is it that we are talking about sustaining-- nature, our environment, our world? These are all very abstract terms themselves. Around the time the term sustainability arose, scientists had discovered a series of threats to our environment and viewed these as a major problem to the endurance of human population. The question then became: "How can we sustain humanity in today's world?" The American Heritage dictionary defines sustain as "supplying with necessities or nourishment," which addresses the key point of sustainability: what are the necessities to ensure that human will be around for future generations? Another way to look at it, which is suggested in the publication Caring for the Earth (a joint publication of the IUCN, UNEP, and WWF-I) is that sustainable development means "improving the quality of human life while living within the caring capacity of supporting ecosystems." It is perhaps important to note that this definition suggests that the quality of human life can only be improved if it is done with careful attention to its impacts on the environment both natural and social.

A practical approach to sustainability does not place responsibility on one sector and not the other. The goal for all agencies and groups affecting society should be to work simultaneously toward the common vision of sustainability. This allows the various sectors to work effectively within their respected areas of expertise and spheres of influence, but specific to the purposes that ea...

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