Origin, present and future
The term “sustainability” has its philological origin in a resource economic principle developed in the forestry during the 18th century. The shortage of wood in the city of Freiberg (Saxony) induces the aristocratic forester Hans Carl of Carlowitz (1625-1714) to develop a “sustainability concept” to ensure a continuous supply of sufficient amounts of wood needed for the use of silver mining. In his work “Sylvicultura Oeconomica” from 1713 he writes, that only as much wood shall be cut down, as can grow back and with that defined the “sustainable use” of wood.
270 years later for the first time a global Organisation (World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)) tackled the term sustainability. Its goal was to advance the international discussion regarding the global environmental and development policy. The presidency was held by the Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who, at the same time, was the eponym for the final report in 1987. The report combined central problems like population growth, pollution or poverty, that lead to a possible solution to the global problem and thus developed the first definition of an approach to a sustainable development.
Applied to today’s point of view, sustainable development therefore means, that the needs of today’s generation are being fulfilled, without at the same time jeopardizing the fulfilment of needs of future generations.
"Sustainability" and "sustainable development" differ from each other. “Sustainability” describes a resource economical principle, that sustains itself continuously as a system. Due to the current human activity the natural regeneration capacity of our system is increasingly reaching its limits. “Sustainable development” however depicts a movement, or rather a change, and considers central problems, to guarantee sustainability.