Sustainability science: an ecohealth perspective

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Courtesy of Springer

Sustainability science is emerging as a transdisciplinary effort to come to grips with the much-needed symbiosis between human activity and the environment. While there is recognition that conventional economic growth must yield to policies that foster sustainable development, this has not yet occurred on any broad scale. Rather, there is clear evidence that the Earth’s ecosystems and landscapes continue to degrade as a consequence of the cumulative impact of human activities. Taking an ecohealth approach to sustainability science provides a unique perspective on both the goals and the means to achieve sustainability. The goals should be the restoration of full functionality to the Earth’s ecosystems and landscapes, as measured by the key indicators of health: resilience, organization, vitality (productivity), and the absence of ecosystem distress syndrome. The means should be the coordinated (spatially and temporally) efforts to modify human behaviors to reduce cumulative stress impacts. Achieving ecosystem health should become the cornerstone of sustainability policy—for healthy ecosystems are the essential precondition for achieving sustainable livelihoods, human health, and many other societal objectives, as reflected in the Millennium Development Goals.

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