The Concepts of Sustainability

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Sustainability is a concept with a diverse array of meanings and definitions – a widely used glamorous, ambiguous, ambivalent and vague concept that is used by different stakeholder groups in various ways. Presumably to avoid noodling over a terminology or to avoid the confrontation with a definition, most widely the concept is broken down a planning process (c.f. e.g. Döring & Muraca, 2010). That is why most common sustainability is understood as sustainable development.1

Sustainable development adapted after the Brundtlandt Report 1987, is a planned, aim- and process oriented procedure that meets the needs of today’s generations without endangering the needs of future generations and world regions (Ott & Döring 2004, 2006).2 The principle of sustainability describes the efforts of the international community, all countries and people to create equal opportunities for development by explicitly taking into account the interests of future generations. Most frequently the concepts of sustainability are based on a triple bottom line represented by the tree pillars – ecology, economy and social security (e.g. by the Enquete Commission, 1998). Apart from the general weaknesses of the column model that is the interchangeability of dimensions and the ignorance of (social) relatedness (c.f. Ott & Döring, 2004)3 the definition of sustainability (the model is illustrating), is seen as a bad compromise between the needs for conservation of natural resources and the aspirations for economic growth by some scholars (Döring & Muraca, 2010). Irrespective of that, the model sometimes is competed by other pillars such as “knowledge”, “institution”, ”governance”, “arts” or the like (c.f. a.o. Ott & Döring, 2004). Whereas in “Resetting the Compas...

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...nd applied knowledge to bear on the urgent challenges of today’s global world and provide knowledge about (historical) conditions but also (local) visions for change.

We agree with the optimism of Charles Redman about the potential role for anthropology in sustainability, believing that sustainability and engaging with it would be tremendously important in enhancing the role and impact of anthropologists. And, as experiences within the trnasdisciplinary project........A vision for a sustainable future of anthropology would be anthropologist being engaged in different fields and levels, actively framing the perception of global change and sustainability, mobilise a wider social science community to engage more effectively and take the lead in developing a more integrated and transformative science of global change and sustainability (c.f. ISSC/UNESCO, 2013).
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