From Advanced Civil Infrastructure Materials: Science, Mechanics and Applications

7.3 Sustainability

Definitions as to what the words sustainable, sustainability and so on mean abound. The concept of sustainability was brought to prominence by the then Prime Minister of Norway, Mrs Gro Harlem Brundtland in the World Commission for Sustainable Development which defined sustainable development as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' (Bruntland, 1987). 'Living within the means of the planet.' Value for impact. 'The concept of striving for sustainable development is not so much a "destination" at the end of a road but like life, more a "manner of travelling".' (CICA, 2002). We can say, however, we are succeeding when our footprint is reduced, when trends are reversed such as the level of CO 2 in the atmosphere and when water quality, sanitation and other benchmark measures improve.

Sustainable materials and processes are all relative. Something that is sustainable in one context may not be in another; what is sustainable today may not be tomorrow and so on. We can, however, always compare our efforts towards sustainability to nature. Natural processes [4] are usually as a whole balanced, integrated and efficient, all major features of sustainable processes. Some aspects of sustainability are easier to understand than others. One thing is clear however. To live more sustainably we must reduce the impact of our activities on the earth's systems by what I call the techno-process described on page 284.


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