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In 1983 the World Commission on Environment and Development, also called the Brundtland Commission, worked out a definition of the concept of sustainability. It stated that "Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". This means that we should not use up more of our resources than we can replace, and should not keep exploiting plant and animal populations if the population size becomes unviable.
Sustainability is often said to consist of different dimensions: ecological, social, economical and cultural. Which dimension of sustainability is most important depends on the status of the country where the concept should be applied. In poorer countries the economical and social dimensions of sustainability are important, since they deal with improvement of living conditions. In wealthier countries, sustainability almost always equalizes ecological sustainability.
The creation of an ecologically sustainable society involves preserving nature's own production capacity and streamlining the use of materials and energy, as well as reducing our influence on nature. Working towards ecological sustainability therefore affects nearly every aspect of living things and all levels of society, from authorities investing more money in research on alternative fuels to household recycling and litter sorting.
Photo credit: NASA