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Holistic Sustainability

Sustainability is widely accepted as encompassing our physical wellbeing through a healthy environment, as well as social and economic dimensions.  In Australia, this was recognised in the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (NSESD) in 1992.  One of the guiding principles enumerated by the ESD Steering Committee is that “decision making processes should effectively integrate both long and short term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations.”  The three areas of ecological, social and economic sustainability are widely used as a triple bottom line (TBL) guide to sustainability.  The fourth area (Quadruple bottom line) is that of Spirit, long recognised by indigenous people as the first principle in sustainability.

In an address to the United Nations, Chief Oren Lyons (1993) spoke of the unsustainability of our current human civilizations as “the life and path which defies the Laws of Regeneration”.  The Indian Chief candidly expressed the need for a major shift in the way we view sustainability.

 “Even though you and I are in different boats, you in your boat and we in our canoe, we share the same River of Life. What befalls me, befalls you.

"And downstream, downstream in this River of Life, our children will pay for our selfishness, for our greed, and for our lack of vision.  500 years ago, you came to our pristine lands of great forests, rolling plains, crystal clear lakes and streams and rivers. And we have suffered in your quest for God, for Glory, for Gold. But, we have survived.

"Can we survive another 500 years of "sustainable development?" I don't think so. Not in the definitions you put `sustainable' in today. I don't think so.

“So reality and the Natural Law will prevail; The Law of the Seed and Regeneration. We can still alter our course. It is NOT too late. We still have options.

"We need the courage to change our values to the regeneration of our families, the life that surrounds us. Given this opportunity, we can raise ourselves.

"We must join hands with the rest of Creation and speak of Common Sense, Responsibility, Brotherhood, and PEACE. We must understand that the law is the seed and only as true partners can we survive.”

When we regard the ecological considerations of our natural systems, the social inequities and challenges and the global economic crisis it is clear that a major shift in policy and collective actions worldwide is needed to bring the consumption of natural resources by our species to potentially sustainable levels.

Such a radical transformation from our current lifestyles requires a shift of focus from slowing the rate of harm to a reappraisal of what constitutes sustainable human settlements and living conditions.  Sustainability thus incorporates a consideration of how we live and how we design our settlements, the focus of our economic sectors, the principles behind our work practices, the development of  new “green” technologies and living lifestyles that are within our resources intergenerationally and intragenerationally.




Subpages (1): Quadruple bottom line