Sustainability is the idea that humans must interact with the environment in a way that ensures there will be enough resources left for future generations. Experts often describe sustainability as having three dimensions (or pillars): environmental, economic, and social. In everyday use, sustainability often focuses on countering major environmental problems, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, loss of ecosystem services, land degradation, and air and water pollution.
Sustainable resources are resources that can be used indefinitely without causing damage or threatening the ability of future generations to use them. Sustainable natural resources include renewable energy sources, healthy soil, water, and forests. Together, natural resources make up a dense web of interdependence, forming ecosystems that also include humans.
The sustainable use of natural resources is a complex challenge that requires balancing the long-term use of resources while maximizing social benefits and minimizing environmental impacts It aims to provide resources for present generations without compromising the needs of future generations. To achieve sustainable utilization of natural resources, communities must develop judicious land-use practices for both conserving ecosystems while enhancing local economies as they maintain the equilibrium with the environment.
Forests are one natural resource that sustainability groups are focused on conserving. Forests make up about 30 percent of Earth’s land mass. The United Nationals Food and Agriculture Organization found that between 2015 to 2020, 420M hectacres of forest were cleared for lumber or agriculture leading to a depletion of a critical natural resource. Deforestation also destroys the habitat of other important organisms and increases soil erosion, limiting the productivity of tree growth. Thus, the goal of sustainable forestry is to preserve forest ecosystems.
Water conservation includes all the policies, strategies, and activities to sustainably manage the natural resource of fresh water to meet current and future human demand. It is the practice of using water efficiently to avoid future water scarcity. Water efficiency focuses on reducing waste and the small behaviors consumers can make to reduce water wastage, and by choosing more water-efficient products.
Wastewater is water that has been used and contains various pollutants. The process of treating wastewater involves the removal of impurities to restore water quality. Wastewater reuse is the practice of using treated wastewater for beneficial purposes, such as irrigation, landscaping, or industrial cooling.
Community colleges are working as part of the solution to sustaining and maintaining natural resources in their communities.
University of Washington Resources for Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity contains resources on DEIA in natural resource management and conservation and professional organizations advancing DEIA in natural resource management with a focus on those based in Washington, or with chapters in Washington.
Diversity and Inclusion in Fisheries and Natural Resources summary report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Aquatic Ecology and Management Team.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Conservation explores how to increase DEI in conservation organizations with a focus on grant writing strategies and connections with external stakeholders.