Building a world of
resilient communities.

MAIN LIST

 

Five axioms of sustainability

Complete essay is posted at Global Public Media.

My aim in this essay is to explore the history of the terms sustainable and sustainability, and their various published definitions, and then to offer a set of five axioms (based on a review of the literature) to help clarify the characteristics of a durable society.

...

1. (Tainter’s Axiom): Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse.

Exception: A society can avoid collapse by finding replacement resources.

Limit to the exception: In a finite world, the number of possible replacements is also finite.

...

2. (Bartlett’s Axiom): Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.

...

3. To be sustainable, the use of renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is less than or equal to the rate of natural replenishment.

...

4. To be sustainable, the use of non-renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion.

The rate of depletion is defined as the amount being extracted and used during a specified time interval (usually a year) as a percentage of the amount left to extract.

...

5. Sustainability requires that substances introduced into the environment from human activities be minimized and rendered harmless to biosphere functions.

In cases where pollution from the extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources that has proceeded at expanding rates for some time threatens the viability of ecosystems, reduction in the rates of extraction and consumption of those resources may need to occur at a rate greater than the rate of depletion.

...

Will local, national, and international leaders ever shape public policy according to these five axioms? Clearly, policies that would require an end to population growth—and perhaps even a population decline—as well as a reduction in the consumption of resources would not be popular, unless the general populace could be persuaded of the necessity of making its activities sustainable. However, if leaders do not begin to abide by these axioms, society as a whole, or some aspects of it, will assuredly collapse. Perhaps this is sufficient incentive to overcome the psychological and political resistance that would otherwise frustrate efforts toward true sustainability.

Editorial Notes: Previous MuseLetters by Richard Heinberg are available at his website. -BA

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Sign up for regular Resilience bulletins direct to your email.

Take action!  

Find out more about Community Resilience. See our COMMUNITIES page
Start your own projects. See our RESOURCES page.
Help build resilience. DONATE NOW.

 

This is a community site and the discussion is moderated. The rules in brief: no personal abuse and no climate denial. Complete Guidelines.


Congresswoman Declares Pipeline and Oil-by-Rail Regulatory System "Fundamentally Broken"

“The system is fundamentally broken.”

Peak Oil Review - Apr 27

 A weekly roundup of peak oil news, including: Oil and the Global …

Our Renewable Future   

How we use energy is as important as how we get it.

Peak Oil Notes - Apr 23

Industry leaders are warning that the $114 billion cut in capital …

Climate change: can the Seneca effect save us?

A Seneca shaped production curve would considerably reduce the amount of …

Saudi Arabia’s Oil-Price War Is With Stupid Money

Saudi Arabia is not trying to crush U.S. shale plays. Its oil-price …

Peak Oil Review - Apr 20

Weekly review including Oil and the Global Economy, The Middle East & …