The ultimate goal of sustainability is to maintain environmental well-being and by doing so we can sustain human well-being indefinitely.
The environmentalist David Suzuki talks about the ‘Sacred Balance’, and he wrote these words in his book of the same name:
“Humanity is an infant species, newly evolved from life’s web. And what a magnificent species we are; we can look out and feel spiritually uplifted by the beauty of a forested valley or an ice-coated Arctic mountain, we are overwhelmed with awe at the sight of the star-filled heavens, and we are filled with reverence when we enter a sacred place. In the beauty, mystery and wonder that our brain perceives and expresses, we add a special gift to the planet.
“But our brash exuberance over our incredible inventiveness and productivity in this century has made us forget where we belong. If we are to balance and direct our remarkable technological muscle power, we need to regain some ancient virtues: the humility to acknowledge how much we have yet to learn, the respect that will allow us to protect and restore nature, and the love that can lift our eyes to distant horizons, far beyond the next election, paycheque or stock dividend. Above all we need to reclaim our faith in ourselves as creatures of the Earth, living in harmony with all other forms of life.”
Humans have tipped the balance, we dominate the environment at the expense of all other life, and ironically, to our own detriment. What is bad for the planet is ultimately bad for people.
A population explosion and enormous growth in the size of the human economy since the beginning of the industrial revolution has caused serious harm to the environment in a number of fundamental ways including:
For the well-being of humans and the environment we need to reduce our ecological footprint to address these problems and learn to live well on what the environment can sustainably supply.