Last week a journalist asked me this question.  Despite having been working, studying and generally thinking about sustainability for over half a decade now, I have to admit to being initially thrown by the question. 

Should I talk about one planet living, or perhaps the Bruntland definition, or may be warnings from history such as Easter Island?  In the end this is what I came up with:

The best way I can answer it is in the one word – ‘balance’.

If you look at nature, nature tends to work in balance – nature doesn’t create waste – by-products from one process, say leaves falling from a tree, become the inputs for another, nourishment for the forest floor.  It seems to me that, in terms of sustainability, we ignore that balance at our peril.  Rising CO2 levels and climate change are the most obvious examples, but we could also talk about the huge quantities of plastic in the ocean or the ever-increasing levels of medicine residues turning up in tap water.

So, for me, sustainability is about finding a way of balancing the needs of people and our global economic system with the planet that we inhabit and depend on.

I’m sure this isn’t the most eloquent definition of sustainability ever; however it was an interesting challenge being asked to define in a few words what sustainability means to me personally.

How would you answer the question?

3rd July 2010