Usage of the word “sustainability” is widespread and
incorporates a plethora of meanings. After reviewing four
extant sustainability frameworks, we propose a Sustainability
Hierarchy to structure a broad array of issues that
have been associated with sustainability. These issues
vary widely in their urgency, severity and uncertainty of
consequences, and temporal and spatial dimensions.
It categorizes actions some view as unsustainable based
on their direct or indirect potential to (i) endanger the
survival of humans; (ii) impair human health, (iii) cause
species extinction or violate human rights; or (iv) reduce
quality of life or have consequences that are inconsistent
with other values, beliefs, or aesthetic preferences.
Effects considered include impediments to the ecosystem
functions that support human life, human health, and
species viability. This paper argues that for sustainability
to become a more meaningful concept, the many worthy
issues in the fourth category (values, beliefs, and aesthetic
preferences) should not be considered sustainability concerns.
Implications for companies, policy makers, and scientists
“Energy and Resources Group, University of California,
Berkeley, California ”
Copyright: 10.1021/es040394k CCC: $30.25 ã 2005 American Chemical Society.