Social Sustainability

Environmental sustainability iconThe general definition of social sustainability is the ability of a social system, such as a country, to function at a defined level of social well being indefinitely. That level should be defined in relation to the goal of Homo sapiens, which is (or should be) to optimize quality of life for those living and their descendents.

After that there is universal disagreement on what quality of life goals should be. Not only do nations disagree. So do their political parties, their religions, their cultures, their classes, their activists organizations, and so on.

Therefore we will not attempt to define what quality of life goals should be, even in the broadest sense. This means that social sustainability on a practical, implementable basis is undefined. Thus it's the weakest pillar of them all because people can't even agree on which way is up. This is a shame, because a strong social pillar is the topmost goal of democratic systems.

A possible direction for agreement on what the tangible goals of social sustainability should be is may be found in Bhutan's national goal of optimizing gross national happiness.


The clip art of tiny people in the social sustainability icon is from Clip Art Mountain.

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Three pillars of sustainability
The Three Pillars of Sustainability

The principle of The Three Pillars of Sustainability says that for the complete sustainability problem to be solved all three pillars of sustainability must be sustainable. The three pillars are social sustainability, environmental sustainability, and economic sustainability.

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Are you as concerned as we are about the rise of populust authoritarians like Donald Trump? Have you noticed that democracy is unable to solve important problems like climate change, war, and poverty? If so this film series is for you!

These average 9 minutes. They give a quick introduction to the Dueling Loops model and how it explains the tremendous change resistance to solving the sustainability problem.

The most eye-opening article on the site since it was written in December 2005. More people have contacted us about this easy to read paper and the related Dueling Loops videos than anything else on the site.

Do you every wonder why the sustainability problem is so impossibly hard to solve? It's because of the phenomenon of change resistance. The system itself, and not just individual social agents, is strongly resisting change. Why this is so, its root causes, and several potential solutions are presented.

The most astonishing short read (7 pages) on the site, if you've never heard about it. The memo was written in 1971.