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Sustainable Development PDF Print E-mail

Sustainable development is a strategy by which communities seek economic development approaches that also benefit the local environment and quality of life. It has become an important guide to many communities that have discovered that traditional approaches to planning and development are creating...

Sustainable development provides a framework under which communities can use resources efficiently, create efficient infrastructures, protect and enhance quality of life, and create new businesses to strengthen their economies. It can help us create healthy communities that can sustain our generation, as well as those that follow ours.
Sustainable development is not a new concept. Rather, it is the latest expression of a long-standing ethic involving people's relationships with the environment and the current generation's responsibilities to future generations. For a community to be truly sustainable, it must adopt a threesome approach that considers economic, environmental and cultural resources. Communities must consider these needs in the short term as well as the long term.

Definitions of Sustainable Development

Various definitions of SD are listed below.

  • "Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. "United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development.
  • "The earth belongs to each generation during its course, fully and in its own right, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence." Thomas Jefferson, September 6, 1789.
  • "Sustainability refers to the ability of a society, ecosystem, or any such ongoing system to continue functioning into the indefinite future without being forced into decline through exhaustion of key resources." Robert Gilman, President of Context Institute.
  • "Sustainability is the emerging doctrine that economic growth and development must take place, and be maintained over time, within the limits set by ecology in the broadest sense - by the interrelations of human beings and their works, the biosphere and the physical and chemical laws that govern it. It follows that environmental protection and economic development are complementary rather than antagonistic processes."
    William D. Ruckelshaus, "Toward a Sustainable World," Scientific American, September 1989.
  • "The word sustainable has roots in the Latin subtenir, meaning 'to hold up' or 'to support from below.' A community must be supported from below - by its inhabitants, present and future. Certain places, through the peculiar combination of physical, cultural, and, perhaps, spiritual characteristics, inspire people to care for their community. These are the places where sustainability has the best chance of taking hold."
    Muscoe Martin, "A Sustainable Community Profile," from Places, Winter 1995.

Sustainable Development Principles


In order to guide sustainable development efforts the following principals have been developed.

Wingspread Principles
Developed by attendees of the 1998 Wingspread conference, "Communities in Harm's Way: A Leadership Dialogue on Designing Disaster-Resistant Settlements," to help communities and government agencies enhance sustainability in disaster-prone communities. The principles include a checklist for disaster mitigation and a policy action framework.

The Hannover Principles
A 70-page philosophical tract, written by architect William McDonough, that outlines a sustainable design philosophy for buildings, cities and products. Within the document, nine principles have become known as the "Hannover Principles."

The Earth Charter Benchmark Draft
A draft set of principles, developed by the Earth Charter in collaboration with Green Cross International, that serves as a universal code of conduct for the transition to sustainable development.

The Precautionary Principle
Helps guide human activities to prevent harm to the environment and to human
health.

National Park Service's Principles for Sustainable Design
An articulate principles to be used in the design and management of tourist facilities that emphasize environmental sensitivity in construction, the use of non-toxic materials, resource conservation, recycling, and integration of visitors with natural and cultural settings. The National Park Service, under its Sustainable Design Initiative, developed this guidebook, entitled Guiding Principles of Sustainable Design. Sustainability principles have been developed for several topics, including building design, site design and energy management.

The Natural Step Principles

Emerged from an international movement that began in Sweden. Natural Step is dedicated to helping society reduce its impact on the environment and move toward a sustainable future.

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