Sustainability is a great contexturalizer, it provides a framework and meta-theme for considering our actions and thinking about our relationships. The best evidence of the success of ‘sustainability’ as an idea is that I don’t have to call myself a ‘sustainability person’ or say that sustainability is the primary focus of my research and other work, because we are all sustainability people now. The expansive and adaptable nature of sustainability as discipline is part of just about everything we do in design and construction.
I’ll do what I can to expand on these topics as they come up but to lay some ground work I’ll provide my working understanding of sustainability at the macro level. One of the reasons ‘sustainability’ has been so influential as a theme is because it is so clearly defined. For those of us who love strict denotation, it’s a near perfect term. The Brundtland Report (Our Common Future) provides an anthropocentric definition based on intergenerational justice; we shouldn’t do anything today that will reduce the ability of future generations to do similar things. That’s a pretty good place to start and its a baseline under which everyone working with sustainability can operate.
The rhetorical question I’ll leave here is this: are we really motivated in our environmental, social, and economic efforts primarily because of their effects on human beings; and if it is people we’re concerned with, are future generations the best moral unit to be basing our decisions upon?