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2 Tutorials that teach Sustainability
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Author: Sophia Tutorial

Identify environmental issues that were discussed in the Brundtland report.

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what's covered
This tutorial will cover the topic of sustainability. We will discuss an overview of sustainability, including key concepts and a historical timeline, as well as explore challenges to sustainability and international involvement in sustainability.

Our discussion breaks down as follows:

  1. Sustainability: Key Concepts
  2. History of Global Sustainability
  3. Challenges to Global Sustainability
  4. Climate Change

1. Sustainability: Key Concepts

Sustainability, our key term for today, is a movement with a goal of establishing interactions with the environment that can continue indefinitely.

Key concepts to remember about sustainability in relation to environmental science are:

  • Harvesting natural resources at a rate that allows regeneration and recovery so that they can be harvested indefinitely into the future
  • Protecting the environment in such a way that major ecosystem services are retained over time
  • Managing human population growth so that a reasonable standard of living for everyone can be maintained within the infrastructure capacity over time
term to know

A movement with a goal of establishing interactions with the environment that can continue indefinitely.

2. History of Global Sustainability

The following chart outlines some notable historical points in sustainability history.

Year Event Historical Relevance
1972 Stockholm Conference World leaders gathered to discuss the environment and humans' impact upon it. They created the first structure of guidance to addressing human impacts on the environment on the global stage.
1987 Brundtland Report Published by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, it began to popularize the concept of sustainability. It examined global environmental issues and proposed ways to address them. It was eventually published in a book called Our Common Future, and identified six major global environmental issues: overpopulation, food security, loss of species and genetic diversity, energy supply and demand along with its pollution resource depletion, industry's pollution and resource use, and the impacts of human settlements in terms of land development and resource use.
1992 Agenda 21, Rio Summit Called all countries to begin sustainable development in earnest by implementing actions by 2005, with a goal of reversing negative environmental trends by 2015. However, by 2002 at the Johannesburg summit, only a handful of nations had developed any strategies.
2002 Johannesburg Summit A handful of nations developed strategies to reverse negative environmental trends, though far fewer countries than were expected.
2012 Rio+20 Summit Many nations reaffirmed their commitment to the 1992 Agenda 21. However, it is unclear if any strategies have been implemented since.

3. Challenges to Global Sustainability

The main challenges to global sustainability involve cost. The cost of implementing some sustainable strategies can be expensive.


Completely transitioning a nation's electricity production from fossil fuels to renewable sources would be a costly sustainable initiative depending on the strategy, because it would most likely require installation of renewable energy infrastructure, new transmission infrastructure, and significant investments of labor and time at various political levels.

Even though sustainability is a global issue, that does not guarantee that every nation is interested in engaging in sustainable development at the same scale, or even at all. Each nation develops and evolves differently, which means that the way they practice resource harvesting and manage growth will vary.


Australia and China might emphasize different policy strategies in relation to agriculture. Australia might enforce different policies on sustainable agriculture than China because its economy is less focused on agriculture. Currently, the biggest economic driver for Australia is the service industry, while China is the world's largest agricultural producer.

Industries may resist sustainable development in a country because it might not be an economic benefit to that particular sector or company.


The coal industry would not be interested in sustainable development because it would largely mean an entire end to their industry.

4. Climate Change

A complex environmental issue that involves every nation on the planet is climate change. It is and will continue to impact every corner of the planet, which means it is an environmental issue that every nation will have to deal with.

Not only is it an international issue, but it is a highly interdisciplinary one as well. It involves climate scientists and meteorologists to understand the effects it could potentially have, such as, for example, weather events like the hurricane shown below:


It involves sociologists and psychologists to understand the cultural impacts and strategies needed to shift behaviors contributing to climate change, and chemists to understand the chemical processes creating the intensified greenhouse effect. In order to address this issue, it will take policymakers, private industry, economists, nonprofit organizations, and general public pressure and action.

Today we learned about sustainability, discussing its key concepts. We also covered a timeline of key events in historical sustainability, and outlined challenges to, and international involvement in, sustainability. Lastly, we discussed an environmental issue that impacts sustainability on a global platform: climate change. Don't forget, sustainability is our key term for today, which is a movement with the goal of establishing interactions with the environment that can continue indefinitely.

Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Jensen Morgan, HURRICANE PD HTTP://BIT.LY/1EICEBV

Terms to Know

A movement with a goal of establishing interactions with the environment that can continue indefinitely