The term sustainable development goes beyond the boundaries of science and business development and trade to include human development, values, and differences in cultures. In fact, many organizations are referring to sustainable human development as opposed to sustainable development in order to emphasize issues such as the importance of gender equality, participation in decision-making processes, and access to education and health.
Cities have become the focal points of these components as major consumers and distributors of goods and services. However, many cities tend to be large consumers of goods and services, while draining resources out of external regions that they depend on. As a result of increasing consumption of resources, and growing dependencies on trade, the ecological impact of cities extends beyond their geographic locations. It has been recognized that the concept of sustainable development is an evolving, debatable term. This section gives you an overview of how sustainable (urban) development was defined by the Brundtland Commission and how it is defined by different organizations in different geographical regions.
The most widely known definition of sustainable
development comes from the Brundtland Commission, which
defined sustainable development as "development that
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their own needs."
During the preparatory meetings for the URBAN21 Conference (Berlin, July 2000) the following definition was developed to define sustainable urban development:
"Improving the quality of life in a city, including ecological, cultural, political, institutional, social and economic components without leaving a burden on the future generations. A burden which is the result of a reduced natural capital and an excessive local debt. Our aim is that the flow principle, that is based on an equilibrium of material and energy and also financial input/output, plays a crucial role in all future decisions upon the development of urban areas."
However, there are many more definitions out there. Let's look at a few:
"Sustainable community development is the ability to make development choices which respect the relationship between the three "E's"-economy, ecology, and equity:
"A sustainable community is one in which
improvement in the quality of human life is achieved in harmony
with improving and maintaining the health of ecological systems;
and where a healthy economy's industrial base supports the quality
of both human and ecological systems."
"A sustainable community uses its resources
to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources
are available for future generations. It seeks improved public
health and a better quality of life for all its residents by
limiting waste, preventing pollution, maximizing conservation
and promoting efficiency, and developing local resources to revitalize
the local economy."
"Sustainable communities are defined
as towns and cities that have taken steps to remain healthy over
the long term. Sustainable communities have a strong sense of
place. They have a vision that is embraced and actively promoted
by all of the key sectors of society, including businesses, disadvantaged
groups, environmentalists, civic associations, government agencies,
and religious organizations. They are places that build on their
assets and dare to be innovative. These communities value healthy
ecosystems, use resources efficiently, and actively seek to retain
and enhance a locally based economy. There is a pervasive volunteer
spirit that is rewarded by concrete results. Partnerships between
and among government, the business sector, and nonprofit organizations
are common. Public debate in these communities is engaging, inclusive,
and constructive. Unlike traditional community development approaches,
sustainability strategies emphasize: the whole community (instead
of just disadvantaged neighborhoods); ecosystem protection; meaningful
and broad-based citizen participation; and economic self-reliance."
"A community that believes today's growth
must not be achieved at tomorrow's expense."
"... the deliberate effort to ensure
that community development not only enhances the local economy,
but also the local environment and quality of life."
What is a sustainable city?