Keywords: sustainable development, history, energy systems, sustainable society, sustainability
The history of sustainable development and the impact of the energy system
This paper describes the origin of the idea, term and concept of sustainable development. Driving forces were fundamental crises, which were essentially crises of the energy system: the idea originated during the crisis of the medieval agrarian solar system; the term emerged when the agrarian energy system could not satisfy the growing energy demand of the emerging industrial age at the end of the 18th century; the concept originated at the end of the 20th century, when the fossil fuel energy system came close to its ecological limits and society was in search of a concept reconciling ecological, economic and social goals for present and future generations. Currently, we are witnessing a slow transition to a new, probably a post–fossil energy system. Therefore, managing the present and future in a sustainable way is a task that will accompany humanity on its way into the future.