Sustainable development, sustainable community, sustainable industry, sustainable agriculture. You may have heard these words used in many different ways, but what does "sustainability" really mean and how can you tell if your community is sustainable?
Sustainability is related to the quality of life in a community -- whether the economic, social, environmental and cultural systems that make up the community are providing a healthy, productive, meaningful life for all community residents, present and future. Sustainability is about deciding together what we want for our future, for the generations that will come after us, for our children. It is about thinking about the future and taking control of it. It is about understanding the impacts of our actions and lifestyle choices. It is about taking responsibility, about becoming involved, about collectively taking ownership of the future.
It is important to understand that sustainability is a journey, not an ultimate destination. Nobody knows what a sustainable future will look like and there are no 'experts' who can write us a 'How to do it' manual. It is a learning process which we need to undertake together as a community. We all need to be actively involved in identifying the solutions and the pathways to a more sustainable future for Coffs Harbour.
Why do we need to live sustainably?
The relationship between human life and the physical world is obvious and well known. The physical world provides the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe. It provides energy, minerals, fibres and other materials needed for natural and synthetic products; it absorbs our waste and emissions. The physical environment in which we have developed influences our culture.
While we recognise these intimate relationships between human life and the environment, it has often been assumed that environmental goals are in conflict with human development, equity or economic goals and the right of individuals to personal freedom. It is often perceived that issues of sustainability that focus on environmentalism are a threat to personal interest. That assumption can lead to both overt and subconscious barriers to effective sustainability action.
We have to be resolute and resourceful in achieving sustainability. We need to understand that resources are finite, that the way we live is in excess to the level that can be sustained and that change must occur to ensure the future for the coming generations.
The 'Triple Bottom Line'
The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is a decision-making process used to ensure sustainability is at the forefront of all Council decisions. This means that equal consideration is given to the economic, social and environmental implications of Council's actions and decisions. This is an important approach that focuses on the matters important to our collective well-being.
Triple Bottom Line is an idea that is finding increasing and widespread international acceptance within the corporate community and one that is informing and transforming corporate reporting practices. It focuses on subjects like transport, equity, heritage, habitat disturbance and other elements that are important in achieving balance or sustainability.
Triple Bottom line is currently being phased into Council decision-making. A working committee was formed to determine the appropriate method of reporting social and environmental costs and benefits to stand alongside financial aspects in the management plan.
To date Council has introduced Triple Bottom Line decision making into all Council Reports and will progressively introduce TBL into its tendering and purchasing documents, public works and development applications. Council aims to continue to improve its Triple Bottom Line performance to ensure that sustainable development becomes a reality for our Local Government Area.