Why things need to change
The way we use the planet is unsustainable. Large numbers of the world’s population go hungry and don’t have clean water. The way we burn fossil fuels is adding to climate change, we are depleting all sorts of resources and polluting our environment in a variety of ways. Climate change is expected to lead to the spread of deserts, an increase in very large storms, increased winter rainfall in coastal areas (including the whole of Britain). It will also lead to changing habitats and landscapes everywhere and rising sea levels, which will flood low-lying areas where millions of people live and where we grow huge amounts of the world’s food.

Sustainability is not about keeping things as they are - things are not OK now for many people. Sustainability is about ensuring access to energy, healthy food, clean air and water for everyone on the planet both now and in the future. It is about improving the world and then trying to keep it OK for everyone.

The idea of conservation, in the sense of preserving things as they are, does not work. Our ‘normal’ lives in Britain are changing the world, mainly because of our contribution to climate change when, for example, we burn fossil fuels to run our cars, heat our houses, power our fridges and transport food from exotic places. If we focus on looking after local habitats and don’t deal with the big issues like climate change, those habitats will be affected, sometimes destroyed, by the impacts of those big issues. If we consume fossil fuel energy in our efforts to preserve the local habitat we just make things worse.

We certainly do not want to preserve things as they are in the economically poorer countries. Most people there need access to more energy to ensure that they can improve their lives. At present:

• About 1000 million people in the world (that’s approx.1 in 5 people) do not receive enough food to lead fully productive lives.
• More than 1 in 10 people on our planet consume less than the ‘critical minimum diet’ necessary to stay healthy and maintain body weight.
• 40 million people die each year from hunger and hunger-related diseases.
• 11 million babies and young children die each year from poverty-related disease.
• 25,000 people die each day from using dirty water.
• A quarter of the world’s adult population still cannot read or write.
• There are approximately 10-15 million refugees currently unable to return to their own country due, in almost all cases, to warfare. Half of these are children.
• Since 1950 the richest 20% of the world’s population has doubled its consumption of energy, meat, timber, steel and copper per person and quadrupled its car ownership, while the poorest 20% has increased its general consumption hardly at all.
• Over-eating and obesity are now so common that, according to the Worldwatch Institute report, the 1.1 billion people in the world who are over-nourished and overweight now almost rival the number who are under-nourished and underweight.

What is sustainability?
What is sustainable development?
Definitions of sustainability
Three dimensions of sustainable design
Why things need to change
How do we add to problems?
What would a sustainable world be like?
Climate change
Datschefski’s principles of sustainable design