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When Should We Care about Sustainability? Applying Human Security as the Decisive Criterion
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1  University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada
2  Human Security Institute (Canada), Terrace, Canada

Published: 02 November 2011 by MDPI in The 1st World Sustainability Forum session General and Related Topics
Abstract: It seems intuitively clear that not all human endeavours warrant equal concern over the extent of their sustainability. This raises the question about what criteria might best serve for their prioritisation. We refute on empirical and theoretical grounds the counterclaim that sustainability should be of no concern regardless of the circumstances. We propose that human security can serve as a source of criteria that are both widely shared and can be assessed in a reasonably objective manner. Following the respective classifications established in the literature, we compile and compare four forms of sustainability (environmental, economic, social, and cultural) in their relationships with the four pillars of human security (environmental, economic, sociopolitical, and health-related). Our findings, based on probable cause and effect relationships, suggest that the criteria of human security allow for a reliable discrimination between relatively trivial incidences of unsustainable behavior and those that warrant widely shared serious concern. They also confirm that certain sources of human insecurity, such as poverty or violent conflict, tend to perpetuate unsustainable behavior, a useful consideration for the design of development initiatives. Considering that human security enjoys wide and increasing political support among the international community, it is to be hoped that by publicizing the close correlation between human security and sustainability greater attention will be paid to the latter and to its careful definition.
Keywords: Human security, assessing sustainability, human ecology, overshoot