Sustainable development is an organizing principle for human life on a finite planet. It posits a desirable future state for human societies in which living conditions and resource-use meet human needs without undermining the sustainability of natural systems and the environment, so that future generations may also have their needs met.

Sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social and economic challenges faced by humanity. As early as the 1970s, 'sustainability' was employed to describe an economy "in equilibrium with basic ecological support systems."[1] Scientists in many fields have highlightedThe Limits to Growth,[2][3] and economists have presented alternatives, for example a 'steady state economy',[4] to address concerns over the impacts of expanding human development on the planet.

The term sustainable development rose to significance after it was used by the Brundtland Commission in its 1987 report Our Common Future. In the report, the commission coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development: "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

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