Different uses of the term "sustainability"
Sustainability first of all means survival, keeping the
community alive. To achieve this the main requirement is sufficient
food, and the means used to this end is agriculture. With
the help of increased means of production and greater efficiency
in production attempts are made to meet the demand ("Green
Revolution"). Conservation of the productive basis is
seldom or at best only secondarily a theme of importance.
Sustainability also means an ecologically acceptable production,
where everything removed is then replaced so as not to harm
the ecological system. This train of thought can also be connected
to the traditional farmer. A peasant's self-image as trustee
of his farm, which he is supposed to use, preserve and enlarge
and then pass on to his descendants, has many counterparts
in other cultures. It is only in recent times that the mistaken
belief in the do-ability of
all things, a veritable flood of technological innovations,
communication and transport systems, and last, but not least,
the necessity of increasingly cheap production have led to
changes in traditional attitudes and behaviour.
Sustainability can also be understood in a social sense, meaning
a thriving economic and social order with production structures
and relationships which ensure a fair distribution of income,
power and opportunities, thus providing the basis for social
Finally, sustainability is used in the sense of long-term
carrying capacity of regions, where there is no negative impact
on the environment. Actually this is a summary of the other
three definitions of sustainability already mentioned. Sufficient
food and other consumer goods coming from ecologically acceptable
production in a well-functioning economic and social system
provide the conditions for the long-term carrying capacity
of a region.