Sustainability is often spoken of as "protecting the environment". However, this intention is somewhat vague. After all, this language suggests what shouldn't be done, instead of seeking the positives which could take place regardless of "undesirable" elements. Those who have kept up with my posts, know that I usually speak of environment - and sustainability - in specific local and economic context.
The difference matters, because stewardship of the environment involves multiple incentives, in terms of both practical and experiential goods. Sustainability is not just about "needs" of the earth, because those needs also correlate with the ways that individuals interact with their environments. Once populations have a chance to flourish, they promptly turn their attention to making certain the earth can flourish as well. Beauty - both natural and planned - arise from circumstance which have to begin from pragmatic understandings.
Too many are inclined to gloss over the need for economic sustainability, as a vital factor of the earth's relative condition. When people suffer, the earth is going to reflect that suffering - even if only indirectly. Recently I came across an expression which seems apropos: "The earth doesn't need saving - we do." "Saving" should not be simply thought of in religious or ideological terms. Economic terminology is also important - because ultimately, one's survival depends on economic circumstance.
Unfortunately, the personal perspective for survival has too little economic context, in the confused dialogue of the present. Often, the individual impulse to thrive gets defined as greed. Or worse, others insist that personal perspective doesn't even matter, for the goals of the majority. In all of this, a reactive mentality is becoming more commonplace. When people begin to focus on the negative, that negativity will be reflected in too many physical environments as well. This is why I suggest thinking about sustainability on economic terms.
Consider the fact that political parties attempt to gain progress by the use of force. For instance, instead of creating sustainable economic options, opposing factions have preferred to cancel out what they perceive as negative, rather than building new positives. Why not build walkable communities for living and working, instead of imposing more limits on fossil fuels production which is already needed? Be proactive, not reactive!
Another problematic response has been tight monetary conditions, which are imposed on those who don't meet government mandated consumption levels. Many environments are already showing the effects, as populations struggle to meet lifestyle expectations mostly designed for middle to upper income levels. There is far too much hand wringing about the ones who need help getting to the "appropriate" level of lifestyle, instead of efforts for more inclusive lifestyle options which do not need such high resource utilization.
Sustainability begins with everyone. Design a world which does not require pensions in order to live a decent, respectable life. It serves little purpose to chastise or threaten the dismantling of institutions which are only following the incentives that have already been established. Instead, change the incentives, to provide more inclusive means for both survival, and economic choice.