The Forward to the text Sustainability: A comprehensive Foundation, by Heriberto Cabezas:

“In its modern form [sustainability] is a concept born out of the desire of humanity to continue to exist on planet Earth for a very long time, perhaps the indefinite future. Sustainability is, hence, essentially and almost literally about holding up human existence. Possibly, the most succinct articulation of the issue can be found in the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. The report entitled “Our Common Future“ primarily addressed the closely related issue of Sustainable Development. The report, commonly know as the Brundtland Report after the Commission Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland, stated that ”Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Following the concept of Sustainable Development, the commission went on to add, “Yet in the end, sustainable development is not a fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs. We do not pretend that the process is easy or straightforward. Painful choices have to be made. Thus, in the final analysis, sustainable development must rest on political will.” Sustainability and the closely related concept of Sustainable Development are, therefore, very human constructs whose objective is to insure the very survival of humanity in a reasonably civilized mode of existence…

“The seriousness of the issue of Sustainability has become increasingly important and obvious over the last fifty years, driven by an increasing human population with increasing per capita resource consumption on a planet which is after all finite. Note that the World population increased from approximately 2.5 billion in 1950 to about 7 billion in 2012″…”there are so many people consuming so many resources that both the World environment and human consumption will have to be managed with far more care and delicacy than has been necessary in all of the historical past.

“Now sustainability is not exactly a discipline such as, for example, physics. Rather it is truly a metadiscipline drawing on nearly all of existing human knowledge in approximately equal parts and with more or less equal importance”….”in Sustainability the range of ideas and issues reach from the depth of biological sciences to the physical sciences and to the social sciences, including politics.”…”The reasons for this inherent, perhaps unprecedented complexity, is that sustainability is about sustaining human existence which requires many things to be sustained including functioning economic, social, and political systems along with a supportive physical and biological environment, and more.

“…environmental problems of our time are both time-sensitive and evolving, and a complete understanding does not exist and may never exist. But the issues still have to be addressed in good faith, in a timely manner, with the best science on hand.”…”It is my sincerest hope this work shared freely and widely will be an educational milestone as humanity struggles to understand and solve the enormous environmental challenges of our time. Further, [this text] helps to provide the intellectual foundation that will allow students to become the engines that move and maintain society on the path of Sustainability and Sustainable Development through the difficult process of change alluded to in Our Common Future.

Heriberto Cabezas
Cincinnati, Ohio
March 2012

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