Sustainability Defined

Being that I am a librarian, I was pondering the word sustainability, and it’s usage in relation to “green” issues. I thought that before we get too far down the road of exploring sustainability, we need to think about the word itself. Thus, I turned to the ever-trusted Oxford English Dictionary, which documents the use of the word over time. Here is what I found.

Naturally, sustainability derives from sustainable, which has its roots in French. The first documented use of sustainable is around 1611. However, the use of sustainable in terms of the environmental movement is not documented until 1980. Right now, there isn’t really an official OED definition of sustainable as it relates to “green” issues, but there is a draft definition from 2001 that reads:

Ecol. Of, relating to, or designating forms of human economic activity and culture that do not lead to environmental degradation, esp. avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources.

This is a sort of statement of how new the sustainability movement is. The language is still forming as our thinking about this develops.  For many us, the environmental movement has been in existence for our entire lives, but we need to recognize that this is a pretty new set of goals.

Ok, so this is totally library-nerd city, but blogs are tools made of language, and language forms around our thoughts, so it seemed like a necessary starting point as our exploration of this topic continues.

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