Global sustainability: Toward definition

Becky J. Brown, Mark E. Hanson, Diana M. Liverman, Robert W. Merideth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

366 Scopus citations


Sustainability is increasingly viewed as a desired goal of development and environmental management. This term has been used in numerous disciplines and in a variety of contexts, ranging from the concept of maximum sustainable yield in forestry and fisheries management to the vision of a sustainable society with a steady-state economy. The meaning of the term is strongly dependent on the context in which it is applied and on whether its use is based on a social, economic, or ecological perspective, Sustainability may be defined broadly or narrowly, but a useful definition must specify explicitly the context as well as the temporal and spatial scales being considered. Although societies differ in their conceptualizations of sustainability, indefinite human survival on a global scale requires certain basic support systems, which can be maintained only with a healthy environment and a stable human population. A clearer understanding of global sustainability and the development of appropriate indicators of the status of basic support systems would provide a useful framework for policy making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-719
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1987


  • Ecologically sustainable development
  • Global sustainability
  • Sustainable use of the biosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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