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Applied sustainability

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Title: Applied sustainability  
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Subject: Open-source-appropriate technology, Circles of Sustainability, Sustainable development, Sustainability
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Applied sustainability

Applied sustainability is the application of science and innovation to meet human needs while indefinitely preserving the life support systems of the planet.

Note that this is a significant difference from the standard definition of sustainability that normally is encapsulated by some version of the Brundtland Commission's concept: “development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”[1]

Just applied sustainability

A more refined definition would be called just applied sustainability: the application of science and innovation to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems. This comes from the definition of Just Sustainability, which is “the egalitarian conception of sustainable development"(Jacobs, 1999:32).[2] It generates an improved definition of sustainable development as “the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems” (Agyeman, et al., 2003:5).[3] This new form of sustainable development prioritizes justice and equity, while maintaining the importance of the environment and the global life support system.

Synonymous with applied science

The relationship between applied sustainability and sustainability (or sustainability science)[4] is analogous relationship between applied science (engineering) and basic science. Whereas science is the effort to discover, understand, or to understand better, how the physical world works, with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding. Applied science is the application of knowledge from one or more natural scientific fields to solve practical problems.

Sustainable engineering

Applied sustainability is essentially sustainable engineering – by utilizing natural laws and physical resources in order to design and implement materials, structures, machines, devices, systems, and processes that meets human need while preserving the environment forever. Applied sustainability is made up of work in engineering, policy, and education – whatever methods are necessary to conserve the world for our children. A recent study has shown that open source principles [5] can be used to accelerate deployment of sustainable technologies [6] such as open source appropriate technologies.

Clarification regarding terminology

Sustainability, itself, is a term that is often confused because in its most basic form it is a characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely. When used in the context of development, as sustainable development, it is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but in the indefinite future. The most evolved definition of sustainability is that of just sustainability - “the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems”.

See also


  1. ^ World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED).1987. Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Jacobs, M., "Sustainable Development as a Contested Concept," in A. Dobson, Fairness and Futurity: Essays on Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999), 32.
  3. ^ Agyeman, J., Bullard, R. D., and Evans, B. eds., Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (London: Earthscan/MIT Press, 2003), 5.
  4. ^ The web site of the Forum for Science and Innovation in Sustainable Development Forum for Science and Innovation in Sustainable Development lists Key Overview Documents, Key Journals and Websites, as well as a list of research Institutions and their Programs.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Joshua M. Pearce, “Open Source Research in Sustainability”, Sustainability: the Journal of Record, 5(4), pp. 238-243, 2012. DOI free and open access

External links

  • A Closer Look at Applied Sustainability Centers
  • Applied Sustainability Research Group at Queen's University
  • Applied Sustainability - Finding your Niche
  • Resource Conservation Manitoba
  • The Applied Sustainability Center
  • The Centre for Rural Sustainability
  • York Centre for Applied Sustainability
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