Sustainability

I stood indicted as a plunderer, a destroyer of the earth, a thief of my grandchildren’s future. And I thought, My God, someday what I do will be illegal. Someday they’ll send people like me to jail.
          – Ray C. Anderson (Anderson, 2009)

 

Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, with the most frequently quoted definition extracted from the Brundtland Report:

 

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." (WCED, 1987)
 

There was a story about the reindeers of St. Matthew Island, a tiny island off the coast of Alaska used by the U. S. Coast Guard during World War II. A rough and craggy place to say the least, someone had the bright idea to stock the island with a few reindeer as a hedge against starvation should the troops be stranded for long periods. It all worked out well until the Coast Guard abandoned the site after the war, leaving the reindeer there to graze comfortably on lichen and willows, but with not a predator in sight.


By 1963 the original population of 29 reindeer had ballooned to 6,000. The formerly fat and happy group had munched the lichen to stubs and there was hardly a twig to nibble upon. Three years later when a biologist visited again, there were only 42 left alive, the others having succumbed to starvation. (Anderson, 2009).

 

Reference:

 

 Anderson, R.C. (2009). Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose – Doing Business by Respecting the Earth. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

 

World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987 p. 43.