Sustain This

The Economist, talking about a controversy surrounding the development of tar sands in Canada, asks the right question about today’s most overused buzzword and comes up with the right answer:

Sustainability is a hopelessly subjective concept. The most widely accepted definition— “development which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” — is little help, as need is also subjective, and the future unpredictable.

But that does not make sustainability meaningless, it just makes it a political battleground.

The standard definition is a non-sequitur because both the needs and abilities of future generations are unknowable.

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