What is sustainability?

In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development, in a report titled Our Common Future (the Brundtland Report), recognised that sustainable development meant adopting lifestyles within the planet’s means. The report also clearly identified that the current patterns of economic growth could not be sustained without significant changes in attitudes and actions. 

Sustainable development was defined as:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

These and the many other definitions of sustainable development recognise that we need to link development and protection of the environment in order to protect and manage ecosystems and natural resources which are essential for fulfilling basic human needs and improving living standards for all. 

Ecologically Sustainable Development

ESD is defined as:

Development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends.

It is about changing the patterns of human activity so that our communities promote the long-term health and integrity of humanity and the planet.

ESD Principles

  1. Integrating economic and environmental goals in policies and activities
  2. Ensuring that environmental assets are properly valued
  3. providing for equity within and between generations
  4. dealing cautiously with risk and irreversibility; and
  5. recognising the global dimension.

Current priorities

Apart from the implementation of the agreed strategies, current priorities include the development of intergovernmental cooperation and coordinated policies for the sustainable management of Australia’s extensive coastal zone, the establishment of a comprehensive system of State of the Environment reporting, greater use of economic measures and instruments in environmental policy and finalisation of a national rangelands strategy.


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