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By Dominic Meneghetti

One of best definitions that I have found for sustainability comes from a United Nations Conference that took place in 1987. It defined sustainable developments as those that “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (WECD, 1987). Robert Gillman, editor of the In Context magazine, extends this goal oriented definition by stating "sustainability refers to a very old and simple concept (The Golden Rule) unto future generations as you would have them do unto you."

Other definitions include the following:

  1. "Sustainable means using methods, systems and materials that won't deplete resources or harm natural cycles" (Rosenbaum, 1993).
  2. Sustainability "identifies a concept and attitude in development that looks at a site's natural land, water and energy resources as integral aspects of the development" (Vieira,1993).

  3. "Sustainability integrates natural systems with human patterns and celebrates continuity, uniqueness and placemaking" (Early, 1993).

These definitions are also available at ( publications/sustain/defnsust.htm)

Throughout history, humans have been environmental managers, but we have acted out in two different ways – consciously and unconsciously. As humans, we have managed the environment in a way that we consciously know and understand what we are doing. At other times in our history, we have unconsciously managed our environment and were unaware of the consequences we were facing as a result. During the industrial revolution in Europe, horrible black smog continued to fill big cities and people’s health suffered. It took quite awhile (a couple of centuries) to stop powerful corporations from polluting. Corporations overlooked the public health and environmental crisis that their factories were creating because of the vast amounts of money they were making. Harmful environmental management was occurring consciously by humans. Early Native Americans would eat grapes while canoeing down rivers and they would dispose of the seeds along the river banks. Grapevines would then begin to grow where they weren’t before. This is an example of unconscious environmental management.

Sustainability and Greening of Government is about being conscious in regards to the choices we make when managing our environment, while at the same time, striving for the ultimate goal of sustainability.

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