The true definition and meaning of sustainability are often quoted as being:
“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
However, this is a very dry, sterile, and complete definition. It is my belief that this definition stifles discussion and prevents deep thinking about the subject. But for the subject of sustainability to remain relevant, I also believe we have to keep the conversation going and remember why we need to work at it.
To that end, I have collected 27 great quotes that put questions into the brain, causing it to stop, reflect, consider, and react.
In this way, the true meaning of sustainability is kept fresh and alive, and people’s attitudes will change.
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“We have to cultivate contentment with what we have. We really don’t need much. When you know this, the mind settles down.
Cultivate generosity—delight in giving. Learn to live lightly. In this way, we can begin to transform what is negative into what is positive. This is how we start to grow up.”
– Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
“Often, sustainability is discussed only in the context of energy. Energy sustainability is essential – but the word has a much broader meaning.
It means long-term thinking about how we manage our businesses, invest in social spending, and plan for the future.
This requires vision and leadership, and it requires citizen engagement.”
– Joe Kaeser
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”
– Cree Indian Proverb
“If we can really understand the problem, the answer will come out of it because the answer is not separate from the problem.”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
“Sustainability is a part of our ‘rise’ philosophy. You cannot rise if you take more from the community than you put back.”
– Anand Mahindra
“As a culture or a civilization, we are a bit juvenile; it’s like ‘Oh, I have all this power, whoa, this is so cool, I can transform the earth, and I can produce all this wealth. But we’re blinded by our success in a naive way.
There’s more to life, actually, and I think the sustainability issue is also helpful in reminding us about that.”
– Tino Sehgal
“Sustainability is not just about adopting the latest energy-efficient technologies or turning to renewable sources of power.
Sustainability is the responsibility of every individual every day. It is about changing our behavior and mindset to reduce power and water consumption, thereby helping to control emissions and pollution levels.”
– Joe Kaeser
“The notion of ‘reduce and refine’ is one I’ve pursued. I truly believe that by making things less complex, by finding innovative ways to make sustainability affordable, we can advance the notion that it is possible.”
– Yves Behar
“Issues relating to global health and sustainability must stay high on the agenda if we are to cope with an aging and ever-increasing population, with growing pressure on resources, and with rising global temperatures.
The risks and dangers need to be assessed and then confronted.”
– Martin Rees
“Sustainability is a seemingly laudable goal – it tells us we need to live within our means, whether economic, ecological, or political – but it’s insufficient for uncertain times.
How can we live within our means when those very means can change, swiftly and unexpectedly, beneath us?”
– Jamais Cascio
“In terms of sustainability and what we eat and what its footprint is on the environment and the consequences of eating one thing versus another, obviously it makes a lot of sense to be eating insects.
They’re incredibly plentiful. They’ve got a very short turnover rate. You could be eating termites.”
– Mary Roach
“The planet’s biggest problems have to do with sustainability, environmental decline, global poverty, disease, conflict, and so forth. Really, they’re all interconnected – it’s one big problem, which is that the way we’re doing things can’t go on.”
– Alex Steffen
“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad or an economist.”
– Sir David Attenborough
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage for your children and your children’s children.
Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches, or its romance.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
– Albert Einstein
“Sustainability is a political choice, not a technical one. It’s not a question of whether we can be sustainable, but whether we choose to be.”
– Gary Lawrence
“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.”
– A. P. J. Abdul
“Global warming will not end by Earth finding shade under the trees but under our hands joined together.”
– Agona Apell
“21st Century choice: Look after our planet, and it will look after us, or don’t and face the consequences.”
– Phil Harding
“After all, sustainability means running the global environment – Earth Inc. – like a corporation: with depreciation, amortization, and maintenance accounts.
In other words, keeping the asset whole, rather than undermining your natural capital.”
– Maurice Strong
“Destroying a rain forest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.”
– E. O. Wilson
“Sustainability takes forever. And that’s the point.”
– William Donough
I hope these 27 quotes have encouraged you to reexamine the true meaning of sustainability and what it means to you.
Please discuss the quotes with your friends to keep the subject alive and allow sustainability to prosper.
Your grandchildren will thank you for it!
There are a few links below to related articles which may encourage further conversations: