Sustainability = Quality of Life = Human Rights
If I had to summarize sustainability in one sentence, I would say it is guaranteeing quality of life for all, today and in the future. This is also the reason why the recovery of environmental resources and ecosystems matters.
In modern history, the starting point of the global agenda for quality of life for all was December 1948 when the Universal Human Rights Declaration was adopted by the UN, supported by 48 countries. For me, unlike other authors in this field, this is the moment when the global sustainability agenda started. The report The Limits to Growth (1972), another milestone for the sustainability movement, came later, showing evidence of how the supporting system of life and quality of life would be destroyed by our development model.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t learn about the Human Rights Declaration at school, at university or later, in our professional lives. This is a major gap in human education, around the globe.
This declaration – absolutely innovative at that time – established through its 30 articles, for example, the right we all have to be born free, equal in law and dignity, without distinction of race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, place of birth or any other aspect. But, among other things, it also deals with everyone’s right to physical security, food, adequate clothing, housing, health, coming and going, joining to defend an idea peacefully, to vote, to work, to receive equal pay for the same work that others do, to rest and take vacations and to have access to an education – fundamental and also vocational – that supports the coexistence between different people. It also determines that we must all have access to scientific, artistic and cultural production.
So, if you work with sustainability and sometimes get lost in the middle of so many rules and policies and indicators and criteria, it may be helpful to remember this: if your decisions, projects and focus are on “improving the quality of life for as many as possible, now and in the future,” you are probably moving in the right direction.
Choosing your guiding star, your direction, is a critical part of getting it right and making a meaningful contribution.
by Nelmara Arbex
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