We are what we measure.   It's time to measure what we want to be.

Key term: Equity


Equity (or inequity): In the context of sustainability, the term equity has to do with fairness -- whether all people have similar rights, opportunities and access to all forms of community capital.

Inter-generational equity has to do with fairness between current and future members of a community. It doesn't mean that we neglect our current needs, but that we try to achieve a reasonable balance between satisfying our needs now and setting aside enough to provide for needs of the future. We are currently living unsustainable lives. If we are not careful how we use and dispose of resources, our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will have a poorer, more polluted world to live in. Aiming for inter-generational equity means we want to give equal consideration to our own immediate needs, our own future needs, and our children's and grandchildren's future needs.

The term equity is also used in connection with the idea that all people throughout the community, be it a town or the entire world, have the same basic needs that must be taken into consideration. This concept is often referred to as intra-generational equity, meaning justice among the present population. The preservation (or acquisition) of basic human rights and the fulfillment of basic human needs are the fundamental driving forces behind economic transactions, social interactions, and resource consumption. When people are operating under duress in any of these areas, concern for immediate needs overwhelms any consideration for long term needs, thereby undermining the whole principle of planning for the future. So, current or intra-generational inequity can lead to future or inter-generational inequity.

Understanding these seven definitions -- sustain, develop, community, economy, community capital, carrying capacity, and equity -- is the first step toward understanding sustainability. The next step is to understand sustainable development and sustainable community. There are probably as many different definitions of 'sustainable development' and 'sustainable community' as there are people and communities trying to define it. In the next section of the web site we have gathered a number of different definitions that have been proposed.