Sustainability is about not being wasteful, living within our means and acting in a way which will not damage or hinder future generations.
Currently the lifestyle of the world’s population is using resources and creating waste so quickly that we are living beyond Earths means, resources and natural coping ability. Click any link to read more about worldwide and country consumption and get more information about Earth Overshoot Day or calculate your own footprint.
The negative impacts of human kinds unsustainable lifestyle are becoming more and more evident; smog in China, the pollution of Citarum River and deforestation for agricultural land an building materials. There are some initiatives to draw attention and make people re-think their resource consumption such as; Earth Hour, Meat Free Mondays and World Oceans Day.
Many break sustainability, or sustainable development, into three main equally important sections; society, economy and environment. While many will feel the focus of sustainability is purely environmental, a strong and just society with a stable economy which does not consider financial gain above a healthy living environment is the aim. The term pillars is used to highlight the need for all three parts to be a strong, considered and relevant as each other, opposite to the current method where many believe economic gain is viewed above all else.
At its core sustainability is an approach to development and living which looks to balance different, often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.For society this means meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal well being, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity. While for the environment this means reducing human impact such as waste, the endangering of species, removal of habitat and the degrading of the air quality.
There are many policies and international agreements which target different aspects, all aiming to improve attitudes and sustainability. The United Nations leads many of these under their branch of sustainable development such as, UN Climate Neutral Strategy and conferences such as Rio Earth Summit. One action plan called Agenda 21 seeks to integrate society better, building local, national and international ability to change current development outlooks, instead embracing nature, local and global cultures and respecting heritage.
While the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a worrying consequence of our over-consumption, are best know for the Kyoto Protocol and conferences such as Durban. The United Nations have set up The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.
At a European and, at times, national level the European Union have many policies in place such as; the Biodiversity Strategy 2020, Natura 2000, 20% reduction in green house gas emissions, all of the European Union policies seek to build upon the Kyoto Protocol and protect and enhance nature, heritage, culture and society.
At a UK level The UK Climate Change Act (2008) forms the structure through which the UK and Northern Ireland will deal with climate change adaptation measures while research such as the UK National Ecosystems Assessment let everyone know how much the environment is valued at and what services it provides to us such as water filtration.
The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) have developed the Sustainable Development Strategy for Northern Ireland. The vision for the Strategy is that ‘everyone’s involved’ and that we must work towards a collective vision.
Environmental designations seek to protect flora, fauna and landscapes. In the Causeway Coast and Glens area there are three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; Antrim Coast and Glens, Causeway Coast and Binevenagh and one World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast, among many other designations. The Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage trust works hard to protect, promote, conserve and enhance the local environment, heritage and culture of the region, always considering the environmental impacts and (future) consequences of any action. Leave No Trace is an ethos by which CCGHT operate, hoping to never impact the environment negatively.