Healthy ecosystems and environments are necessary to the survival of humans and other organisms. Ways of reducing negative human impact are environmentally-friendly chemical engineering, environmental resources management and environmental protection. Information is gained from green computing, green chemistry, earth science, environmental science and conservation biology. Ecological economics studies the fields of academic research that aim to address human economies and natural ecosystems.
Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, supply chain management, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganizing living conditions (e.g., ecovillages, eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture), or work practices (sustainable architecture), using science to develop new technologies (green technologies, renewable energy and sustainable fission and fusion power), or designing systems in a flexible and reversible manner, and adjusting individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources.
"The term 'sustainability' should be viewed as humanity's target goal of human-ecosystem equilibrium (homeostasis), while 'sustainable development' refers to the holistic approach and temporal processes that lead us to the end point of sustainability." Despite the increased popularity of the use of the term "sustainability", the possibility that human societies will achieve environmental sustainability has been, and continues to be, questioned—in light of environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, population growth and societies' pursuit of unlimited economic growth in a closed system.
Circles of sustainability and the fourth dimension of sustainability
While the United Nations Millennium Declaration identified principles and treaties on sustainable development, including economic development, social development, and environmental protection, it continued using three domains: economics, environment, and social sustainability. More recently, using a systematic domain model that responds to the debates over the last decade, the Circles of Sustainability approach distinguished four domains of economic, ecological, political and cultural sustainability; this in accord with the United Nations, Unesco, Agenda 21, and in particular the Agenda 21 for culture which specifies culture as the fourth domain of sustainable development.The model is now being used by organizations such as the United Nations Cities Program and Metropolis. In the case of Metropolis, this approach does not mean adding a fourth domain of culture to the dominant triple bottom line figure of the economy, environment and the social. Rather, it involves treating all four domains—economy, ecology, politics, and culture—as social (including economics) and distinguishing between ecology (as the intersection of the human and natural worlds) and the environment as that which goes far beyond what we as humans can ever know.[
Another model suggests humans' attempt to achieve all of their needs and aspirations via seven modalities: economy, community, occupational groups, government, environment, culture, and physiology. From the global to the individual human scale, each of the seven modalities can be viewed across seven hierarchical levels. Human sustainability can be achieved by attaining sustainability in all levels of the seven modalities.
Shaping the future
Integral elements of sustainability are research and innovation activities. A telling example is the European environmental research and innovation policy. It aims at defining and implementing a transformative agenda to greening the economy and the society as a whole so to make them sustainable. Research and innovation in Europe are financially supported by the programme Horizon 2020, which is also open to participation worldwide. Encouraging good farming practices ensures farmers fully benefit from the environment and at the same time conserving it for future generations. Additionally, instigating innovative and sustainable travel and transportation solutions must play a vital role in this process. During the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Activist Rodrigo Ayala brought up a couple mechanisms to allow sustainability to become integrated into society. The need to gather as a society to plant more trees in our backyards is necessary and therefore a task for the next generation.