Sustainable Development: An Ethical Principle for a Better Future

The term "sustainable development" in its current meaning was introduced in the United Nations' 1987 report "Our Common Future", in which it is stated that "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This statement provides the basis for the ethical and political principle adopted globally by the United Nations and discussed in a number of World Summits: to achieve a prosperous future for humanity through a sustainable development.

Considering the powerful force into which humanity has evolved, the 1987 UN report emphasizes the importance of considering sustainability issues in a global context and in the context of social justice. Not only do we want to hand down a world to future generations that is not degraded and compromising their future, we also do not want our lifestyle to compromise the well being of contemporary societies in other parts of the world.

The Sustainability Triade

Sustainability depends on our practices in three main areas: the economy, the society, and the environment. In combination, these areas span most aspects of human existence. It is the inter-connectedness of all areas of human life that ultimately determines to what degree our society is sustainable, and it is the inherent complexity that we need to face and address in order to reach sustainability and beyond.

For more illustrations of sustainability of our global society on planet Earth, see Computing for Sustainability.

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