Short History and Origins of ESD

What is ESD

  Short History and Origins of ESD

The concept of Sustainable Development (SD) emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, following concerns about the impacts that unrestrained economic growth and development were having on the environment.

This issue was developed at a number of United Nations conferences during this period.  In the area of fisheries management, there was ample evidence that fish stocks could be overfished – an uncommon concept before then.

The most widely used definition of Sustainable Development comes from the Brundtland Report” which states that it is the kind of development which:

Meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” [1]

The term ‘Ecologically Sustainable Development’ (ESD) was adopted in Australia to emphasise the importance of the environment to long-term survival and to ensure that there was a balanced approach in dealing with environmental, social and economic issues.  The details are in the National Strategy on ESD[2] which was accepted by all Australian governments and includes the definition of ESD which states that we should be:

“Using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased. “

[1] WCED (1987)  Our Common Future. World Commission on Environment and Development Oxford University Press  400pp

[2] Commonwealth of Australia  (1992) The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, AGPS, Canberra.  (

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