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What is sustainability?

Sustainability can be defined as the ability to maintain healthy environmental, social and economic systems in balance, indefinitely, on a global and local scale.

The spheres of sustainability can be conceptualised as having a nested relationship (Figure 1), with the economy and society a subset of the environment.

Culture is often included as a fourth circle or a subset of society.

The economy is much broader than the regular monetary economy, and includes:

  • an exchange of goods and services within and between communities, with

  • a focus on the equitable distribution of scarce resources

  • at a sustainable scale.

Nested model of sustainability

Figure 1: A nested view of sustainability