Sustainable development is a pattern of economic growth in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come (sometimes taught as ELF-Environment, Local people, Future. Sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social challenges faced by humanity. As early as the 1970s, "sustainability" was employed to describe an economy "in equilibrium with basic ecological support systems." Ecologists have pointed to The Limits to Growth. The concept of sustainable development is often broken out into three constituent parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and sociopolitical sustainability.
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‘Sustainability’ is a semantic modification, extension and transfer of the term ‘sustained yield’. This had been the doctrine and, indeed, the ‘holy grail’ of foresters all over the world for more or less two centuries. The essence of ‘sustained yield forestry’ was described for example by William A. Duerr, a leading American expert on forestry: “To fulfill our obligations to our descendents and to stabilize our communities, each generation should sustain its resources at a high level and hand them along undiminished. The sustained yield of timber is an aspect of man’s most fundamental need: to sustain life itself.” A fine anticipation of the Brundtland-formula.
Not just the concept of sustainable development, but also its current interpretations have its roots in forest management. Strong sustainability stipulates living solely off the interest of natural capital, whereas adherents of weak sustainability are content to keep constant the sum of natural and human capital.
The history of the concept of sustainability is however much older. Already in 400 BCE, Aristotle referred to a similar Greek concept in talking about household economics. This Greek household concept differed from modern ones in that the household had to be self-sustaining at least to a certain extent and could not just be consumption oriented.
The first use of the term "sustainable" in the modern sense was by the Club of Rome in March 1972 in its epoch-making report on the ‘Limits to Growth", written by a group of scientists led by Dennis and Donella Meadows of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Describing the desirable "state of global equilibrium", the authors used the word "sustainable": "We are searching for a model output that represents a world system that is: 1. sustainable without sudden and uncontrolled collapse; and 2. capable of satisfying the basic material requirements of all of its people."