Explore the concept of sustainability as it relates to the field of environmental studies, focusing on how to responsibly maintain the balance between natural resource consumption and economic growth for the long term. Environmental sustainability focuses on protecting and restoring the health of the earth’s ecosystems and natural habitats. Efforts to sustain and improve the global environment include reducing air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, pesticides, and other pollutants. Advocates of sustainability also cite the importance of recycling, reusing resources, and reducing initial consumption of resources.
The need for policies around sustainability came to a head following World War II as rapid economic and population growth made unprecedented demands on the earth’s natural resources. Public concern that unlimited economic and population growth would result in ecological catastrophes spurred the creation of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970, which mandates that all federal agencies assess the environmental and related economic and social effects of any proposed actions. Social engagement in such issues has been key to awareness of the demands placed on local and global environments and their impact on future generations.
A focus on renewable energy sources that come from harnessing the power of the sun, wind, water, and other replenishing natural renewable resources is a major concept in sustainability. In order to be sustainable, resource removal should not compromise the health, resilience, and biodiversity of any ecosystem or the global environment as a whole. For example, lumber is a sustainable, renewable resource when lumber companies plant new trees to replace the ones they cut down; however, if they cut down more than they plant, this is not a sustainable model. The role of corporations and government is integral in sustainability initiatives because these entities most affect resource consumption and management.