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Principles > Definitions

For society to continue developing in the way it has done in the past, we need to pay more attention to our environment. How this is best achieved is often a matter of opinion rather than fact, dependent upon different perspectives of the environment and views of nature. Recently, a concept has emerged that has attempted to bring together the best aspects of these different viewpoints, and to harmonise the development of mankind with the protection of nature. This is the concept of "Sustainable Development".

Sustainable development involves maintaining our current rate of development whilst leaving suitable resources behind for later generations to continue to develop. In this context then, environmental problems must be tackled by considering their relationship with the state of the economy and the wellbeing of society. In fact, the environment, the economy and society taken together, include everything that we need to consider for a healthy, prosperous and stable life.

Although sustainable development is about integrating the environment, society and economy, the economy, and in turn society exist within the wider context of the environment. The economy exists entirely within society, because all parts of the human economy require interaction among people. However, society is much more than just the economy. Happiness, pleasure and well being to not stem solely from financial growth. Friends and families, culture, religion and ethics are important elements of society, that are not primarily based on exchanging goods and services, but contribute to the overall quality of life. Society, in turn, exists entirely within the environment. Our basic requirements - air, food and water - come from the environment, as do the energy and natural resources for housing, transportation and the products we depend on. Protection of the environment, therefore, resides at the core of Sustainable Development.

In the 1980s, increasing concern about the effects of economic development on health, natural resources and the environment led the United Nations to release the Brundtland Report. This defines sustainable development as 'development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.'