Sustainability Plus

Communications > Sustainability Plus > Posts > Sustainability Plus: Some Questions and Answers

What is sustainability?

Sustainability involves living and working in ways that address present-day needs without eroding the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Broadly speaking, sustainability involves the ability to carry on, to stay the course, to act in ways that secure our long-term well-being while ensuring that our resources remain as diverse and abundant as possible.

Sustainability can also be applied to individual and family lifestyles. In this context it means living and working in ways that sustain personal health, well-being and economic security.

Why are we hearing so much about sustainability?

Policymakers of various political convictions and scientists from a wide range of disciplines stress that sustainable practices — designing with resource preservation in mind — are vital to the health of our planet and to our own personal well-being. After all, we have only a single planetary supply of the sources essential for life, one that must be managed as carefully and as frugally as possible, not only for our sake but also for future generations.

Farming serves as a prime example, though only one among many. The agriculture model of the 20th century was built on the twin pillars of cheap, readily available supplies of petroleum and water, two resources that will be in perilously short supply in the 21st century.

Meeting these challenges as well as the added challenge of having to feed a projected 9 billion people by mid-century will require a new farm model, one in which sustainability practices must comprise a vital part.

What is meant by "Sustainability Plus"?

Many people associate sustainability solely with the environment. To be sure, sustainability encompasses to all aspects of the environment, everything from recycling to identifying ways to reduce chemical runoff in lakes and streams.

The term "sustainability plus" was developed to underscore the fact that sustainability extends well beyond the environment. We live in an era when many vital resources, not just natural resources, are being strained to their limit. Fortunately for us, research-based science conducted within a variety of disciplines has shown us how we can act individually and collectively to preserve these social, economic and cultural resources and to secure a safer, more livable community, state, nation and planet.

What are some examples of sustainability plus?

Sustainability plus is expressed in many different ways.

In economic terms, it may involve identifying business practices that safeguard the environment while ensuring long-term profitability.

In personal terms, it may call for adopting lifestyle practices that secure long-term health benefits and reduce the stress on our increasingly overburdened healthcare system.

In social terms, it may involve developing strategies by which communities can achieve long-term economic growth without compromising the long-term well-being of their social, cultural and environmental assets.

Why has the Alabama Cooperative Extension System chosen to highlight sustainability plus?

We believe that Alabamians need to be equipped with a broader view of sustainability. While environmental sustainability remains a critical concern, Alabamians must also gain a better understanding of why sustainable practices are vital to all facets of our lives.

It's often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Adopting sustainable practices in all facets of our lives enables us to improve our lives in a number of ways: enhancing our productivity at many levels and in many different ways, avoiding waste and reducing costs and reducing exposure to future uncertainties and risks.

In the process of developing and adopting sustainable practices, we also accomplish something even more meaningful and lasting: we foster a culture of creativity and innovation.

Why is Alabama Extension especially well equipped to educate Alabamians about this critical need?

Long before it was viewed as a concept essential to the survival of our planet, Extension educators have been developing and fostering sustainability-related strategies over many different programming areas. For almost a century, sustainability plus has been a vital component of all facets of our outreach mission, though Extension educators in previous decades may not have been consciously aware of this fact.

With grassroots educators in every county in the state, we consider ourselves especially well equipped to help Alabamians of all ages and from all walks of life gain a deeper understanding of this concept and how it can be incorporated into every aspect of their lives.