“Sustainability” is a very popular word which everyone seems to think means one thing, but which, when you actually get into the specifics, it turns out that they actually all mean different things. “Sustainability” for an architect is very different from the same word’s meaning for an economist discussing a developing country’s ability to withstand climate change.
The definition I’ve come up with for the purposes of this blog, includes elements of both of the above examples and more. As simply as I can put it, “Sustainability” means balancing our consumption needs and wants (energy, raw materials, manufactured goods, food and water) as humans with the environmental well-being of the planet, so that both are thriving to the maximum extent possible.
Again, I looked but couldn’t find any kind of gauge that would measure such a definition. (I should also mention that, although there are some very good indicators out there, it is also difficult to find ones that provide measures for a significant number of countries. There’s lots of data on the U.S., not so much on Suriname and Somalia.)
Whatever their shortcomings, the best sources of data are still the United Nations/World Bank/IMF. Though it’s not perfect, I decided to go with their indicator for Alternative and nuclear energy (% of total energy use). I figure that if a country is at least trying to go “Green” in terms of energy production and consumption, that’s a good sign they’re also trying to become more sustainable overall.
So it’s not perfect. But it’s a start. In the meantime, I’m continuing my search for a better way to measure “sustainability” and am open to all suggestions!
And, by the way, two small countries that have amazing “Sustainability” are Paraguay and Bhutan, with 100% of their electricity being generated from hydro-power! Neither country’s population is completely connected to the grid, but still, I was happily floored by that discovery.
And, I forgot to update Bhutan’s numbers so The Number has gone up from yesterday:
It may not seem like much (that’s a difference of .000350111111) but I’ll take it — maybe that means a few more trees around in South America.
Thanks for stopping by!