Environmental sustainability is a broad concept that involves a variety of different perspectives on the environment. However, environmental sustainability is often considered as one particular concept, with little attention to its various definitions and limitations. The present article aims to provide an introduction to environmental sustainability as well as explain its various dimensions. An integrated and generalized approach to environmental sustainability must not merely consider a particular human-system context in geographical and historical context but also study features that have been identified as key to such circumstances. This includes defining the different perspectives and approaches that are relevant in environmental assessment.
A human being has the basic needs for a secure existence. These basic needs are satisfied through a well-balanced diet, physical activities, social interaction and other aspects of daily life. But to achieve full happiness, these basic needs cannot be satisfied unless some other conditions are fulfilled as well. Thus happiness is a complex phenomenon that is determined by the interrelations between the different dimensions of the environment. There are three basic concepts that can be used to understand happiness and their relationship to the environment.
Social carrying capacity refers to the ability of human beings to interact and survive in the environment. It is the capacity of a community or nation to take in another within its social carrying capacity. In ecological terms, it refers to the extent of the ecosystems ability to provide for the needs of the human beings living in it. Thus if the ecosystems carrying capacity is reduced because of degradation, overpopulation or depletion of natural resources, the human inhabitants will be poorly placed in the environment and will face a lot of problems. Social carrying capacity has a great significance for the sustainable development of human beings.
Eco-systems design and management refer to the ways in which human societies can sustainably use natural systems, including plants, animals, humans and the natural processes that they contain. The concept of eco-systems was developed to replace the earlier discourse on the environment as an external concern. Now the environment is understood to have a direct impact on human life through the reduction of natural systems. These concepts are used to explain why some human societies have developed extraordinary skills in environmental management and innovation while others have failed. These theories attempt to explain the differences in achievement by different societies.
Physical environment refers to the non-natural aspects of the earths surface. Human societies have developed tremendous skills in exploiting the physical environment but they still have a long way to go in the area of sustainable development of the ecosystems and their carrying capacity. The physical environment holds the key to how people survive and interact with one another. The theories of ecological systems development attempt to describe how the development of ecosystems and their carrying capacity can be supported through sustainable physical environments.
Economic structure refers to the way in which people produce, consume and transmit value. The process of economic development is closely connected with the processes of environmental degradation. Economic structure also describes the relationship between humans and the natural world. The growth and maintenance of a society is determined by its ability to reproduce its carrying capacity. The use of valuable resources is necessary to sustain economic structure; however the excessive use of such resources may deplete this carrying capacity.
A society’s ability to produce and transmit value is largely affected by its capacity for environmental degradation. As the carrying capacity of the environment may be exceeded by environmental degradation it will result in a reduction in the society’s ability to produce. This reduction will in turn affect the capacity of the economy to support living standards. This reduction in economic capability will trigger social and economic changes that initiate changes in the environment and cause environmental degradation.
ecological, economic, and social concepts are interrelated and they are used to describe the various dimensions of a society’s ability to sustain and improve its sustainability. These concepts describe and provide a rationale for the conservation of the natural resources. The importance of these concepts in environmental management are illustrated in the fact that they have been incorporated into numerous international development programs and policies.