Sustainability is typically analyzed from socio-cultural and ecological dimensions. But rarely from spiritual dimension. There are a few who have attempted, but has not yet got the much needed mainstream attention.
By definition Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Going by this, we have and are striving to find technologies and means to generate energy, food and other resources without eroding nature. But the balance between demand and supply seems to be eluding us to say the least. A saving made by a change in one place / time / situation is offset by the degeneration triggered by the very same "change" in another place / time / situation. For instance, generating solar energy from solar panels seems to be a sustainable source of energy to the superfluous. But on scratching the surface one finds that the process of manufacturing solar panels by itself is not environment friendly and hence defeats the very purpose of sustainable living.
I can go on with more such examples. And having gone through many such examples , I have come to believe that the only form of sustainable development that is viable is that of simple / spiritual living, which is what our hindu tradition suggests.
In a sense, the essence of Hindu tradition is moderation i.e. simple / spiritual living -- Acquire only as much as needed and not as much as you want. Do not hanker after material acquisitions. Eat in moderation and live in moderation, inharmony with nature.
Looking back at the hindu traditional essence as it can be deciphered above, it comes back to basics - This whole problem of sustainability is because man has been in reckless pursuit of hoarding wealth, luxuries, assets and everything material. When the consumption goes down, the balance between the demand and supply is naturally maintained and sustained.
Well you might ask ... so much for sustainability, but what is my motivation as an individual to follow simple / spiritual living or for that matter even moderate living ? My answer is, it goes much beyond just sustainability. The root of all personal problems is also reckless material acquisition. Adi Sankara (A great philosopher of Advaita) seems to have very aptly summarized it -- if you go after finite material assets, it is bound to be perilous, since they are anyway finite. The finite is bound to get exhausted and hence our perennial mission of hoarding more of the finite. If for instance we set ourselves on to the mission of accumulating enough wealth such that it never diminishes ... the futility of the mission is all too obvious. It might not be as obvious in some cases though. But once we adopt simple / spiritual living , the core principle being not being in pursuit of materialistic acquisition, we can save ourselves from the perils even in the not so obvious cases.
Hence my mantra for sustainability as well as our own well being is -- Simple / Spiritual living.
What are your thoughts and experiences ? What are the experiences of sustainable communities? Would be interested in knowing your views.