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Engineering LibreTexts

2: Introduction to Sustainability Humanity and the Environment

  • Page ID
    12015
    • 2.1: What is Sustainability?
      Although the Brundtland Report did not technically invent the term “sustainability,” it was the first credible and widely-disseminated study that probed its meaning in the context of the global impacts of humans on the environment. Its main and often quoted definition refers to sustainable development as “…development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
    • 2.2: The IPAT Equation
      As attractive as the concept of sustainability may be as a means of framing our thoughts and goals, its definition is rather broad and difficult to work with when confronted with choices among specific courses of action. The Chapter Problem-Solving, Metrics, and Tools for Sustainability
    • 2.3: Human Consumption Patterns and the “Rebound” Effect
      In 1865 William Jevons (1835-1882), a British economist, wrote a book entitled “The Coal Question,” in which he presented data on the depletion of coal reserves yet, seemingly paradoxically, an increase in the consumption of coal in England throughout most of the 19th century. He theorized that significant improvements in the efficiency of the steam engine had increased the utility of energy from coal and, in effect, lowered the price of energy, thereby increasing consumption.
    • 2.4: Challenges for Sustainability
      The concept of sustainability has engendered broad support from almost all quarters. In a relatively succinct way it expresses the basis upon which human existence and the quality of human life depend: responsible behavior directed toward the wise and efficient use of natural and human resources. Such a broad concept invites a complex set of meanings that can be used to support divergent courses of action. Even within the Brundtland Report a dichotomy exists: alarm over environmental degradation