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Community get to know the three pillars of sustainability | Upload General

Get To Know The Three Pillars Of Sustainability

by: Sharai Hoekema
get to know the three pillars of sustainability | Upload

If a building is resting on three unique pillars as its supporting structure, people will rightly assume that removing one of those three will have a serious impact on the remaining two - as in, the building will collapse. 

Get To Know Sustainability

While you do not need to be a structural engineer of sorts to understand this, those of us who are working towards a balanced approach to sustainability fail to grasp a similar idea in their field. Sustainability is not a castle in the air, floating on nothing but thin clouds, strong enough to levitate of its own. Rather, sustainability needs to stay rooted to the ground below - through three main pillars, the threesome commonly known as The Three Pillars Of Sustainability.

The Three Pillars Of Sustainability

  • Standing at the far left, the first pillar would be society or the social pillar. This encompasses everything that has to do with fairness and humanity. It looks at what is fair from a social perspective, the so-called ‘social equity.’ Will we, as a species, have enough leftovers to survive and possibly even thrive?
  • The second pillar, perched in the middle, would be the economy or the economic pillar. This one looks at the economic impact of all our efforts. What impact will it have on industries or even on individual companies? At the same time, is there some economic viability where the ‘profits’ or payoff are worth it when comparing them to the costs?
  • The third and final of the three pillars of sustainability is for the environment. It is the environmental pillar. The one that figures out how to get the environment ‘on board’ and see what can be done without irreparably harming the world around us. Therefore, this pillar serves as the first and final defense line - guaranteeing some form of environmental protection.

two-children-building-a-teepee-in-the forest
Photo by Markus Spiske Unsplash

Sustainability Is A Pretty Hard Job

Looking at these three pillars - one meant to guarantee some level of social equity, the other securing economic viability, and the last one looking out for environmental protection -, it will perhaps finally start to ring home how difficult the whole matter of sustainability really is. 

It is not as simple as pulling a fun, new green energy initiative out of your hat. To be truly sustainable, it will have to tick the three boxes. It has to keep society balanced while keeping the economy healthy and doing good for the environment. A green energy initiative seeking to replace fossil fuel might be quick to negate environmental protection. Still, it may struggle a lot more with economic viability - will the technology be cheaper, and will it allow for a swift transfer of (human) resources from fossil fuel to the new technology? 

It may also fail at the social equity mark - as some groups in society may have easier access to the new technology than others. In this case, even if the technology in and of itself is outstanding, it may still fall desperately short of being fully ‘sustainable.’ 

Recommended: Sustainability In The City: Greener And Safer

The Grey Areas Are Huge

All of this what-if talk means that there are a lot of ‘grey areas.’ These are the areas that play host to initiatives that are meeting two of the criteria, like an initiative that is both socially equitable and economically viable - which has been classified as something that is ‘bearable.’ At the intersection of social equity and environmental protection lies ‘equitable.’ In contrast, something that ticks the marks on both environmental protection and economic viability is ‘viable.’

Recommended: Feasibility Of Sustainability: Hard Questions

Each of these grey areas denotes something that is lacking. Something ‘bearable’ is perhaps good for humanity and the economy, but not for the environment. Having something ‘equitable’ is working well for humanity and the environment but lacks benefits for the economy. Finally, ‘viable’ would mean that it is good for the economy and environment, but not for humanity. 

See what is going on? This is the everlasting debate. Before something is truly ‘sustainable,’ it has to meet all the criteria. Who was it that said, a house divided against itself cannot stand,’ about a similarly pressing societal issue? Perhaps we should start to live by the thought of ‘sustainability divided against itself cannot stand’ - to start coming up with solutions that truly live by each of society's three pillars.

Before you go!

Recommended: Algae Canopy Miracle Works Better Than A Forrest: How?

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Get To Know The Three Pillars Of Sustainability

If a building is resting on three unique pillars as its supporting structure, people will rightly assume that removing one of those three will have a serious impact on the remaining two - as in, the building will collapse.   Get To Know Sustainability While you do not need to be a structural engineer of sorts to understand this, those of us who are working towards a balanced approach to sustainability fail to grasp a similar idea in their field. Sustainability is not a castle in the air, floating on nothing but thin clouds, strong enough to levitate of its own. Rather, sustainability needs to stay rooted to the ground below - through three main pillars, the threesome commonly known as The Three Pillars Of Sustainability. The Three Pillars Of Sustainability Standing at the far left, the first pillar would be society or the social pillar. This encompasses everything that has to do with fairness and humanity. It looks at what is fair from a social perspective, the so-called ‘social equity.’ Will we, as a species, have enough leftovers to survive and possibly even thrive? The second pillar, perched in the middle, would be the economy or the economic pillar. This one looks at the economic impact of all our efforts. What impact will it have on industries or even on individual companies? At the same time, is there some economic viability where the ‘profits’ or payoff are worth it when comparing them to the costs? The third and final of the three pillars of sustainability is for the environment. It is the environmental pillar. The one that figures out how to get the environment ‘on board’ and see what can be done without irreparably harming the world around us. Therefore, this pillar serves as the first and final defense line - guaranteeing some form of environmental protection. Photo by  Markus Spiske  Unsplash Sustainability Is A Pretty Hard Job Looking at these three pillars - one meant to guarantee some level of social equity, the other securing economic viability, and the last one looking out for environmental protection -, it will perhaps finally start to ring home how difficult the whole matter of sustainability really is.   It is not as simple as pulling a fun, new green energy initiative out of your hat. To be truly sustainable, it will have to tick the three boxes. It has to keep society balanced while keeping the economy healthy and doing good for the environment. A green energy initiative seeking to replace fossil fuel might be quick to negate environmental protection. Still, it may struggle a lot more with economic viability - will the technology be cheaper, and will it allow for a swift transfer of (human) resources from fossil fuel to the new technology?   It may also fail at the social equity mark - as some groups in society may have easier access to the new technology than others. In this case, even if the technology in and of itself is outstanding, it may still fall desperately short of being fully ‘sustainable.’   Recommended:  Sustainability In The City: Greener And Safer The Grey Areas Are Huge All of this what-if talk means that there are a lot of ‘grey areas.’ These are the areas that play host to initiatives that are meeting two of the criteria, like an initiative that is both socially equitable and economically viable - which has been classified as something that is ‘bearable.’ At the intersection of social equity and environmental protection lies ‘equitable.’ In contrast, something that ticks the marks on both environmental protection and economic viability is ‘viable.’ Recommended:  Feasibility Of Sustainability: Hard Questions Each of these grey areas denotes something that is lacking. Something ‘bearable’ is perhaps good for humanity and the economy, but not for the environment. Having something ‘equitable’ is working well for humanity and the environment but lacks benefits for the economy. Finally, ‘viable’ would mean that it is good for the economy and environment, but not for humanity.   See what is going on? This is the everlasting debate. Before something is truly ‘sustainable,’ it has to meet all the criteria. Who was it that said, a house divided against itself cannot stand,’ about a similarly pressing societal issue? Perhaps we should start to live by the thought of ‘sustainability divided against itself cannot stand’ - to start coming up with solutions that truly live by each of society's three pillars. Before you go! Recommended:  Algae Canopy Miracle Works Better Than A Forrest: How? Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about sustainability? Send your writing & scribble with a photo to  [email protected] , and we will write an interesting article based on your input or  subscribe .
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