YHD Blogs – The Three Pillars of Sustainability


This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 


By Althea Fikri-Chapman 

Have you ever wondered why making changes in our society is so challenging? The popular term we are using now is intersectional environmentalism. This term refers to how racial and social justice relate to, or intersect with, environmental justice. An important framework for understanding and planning change that will be lasting,  are the three pillars of sustainability which include the consideration of environmental, social and economic pillars of such change. These pillars are also commonly called: planet, people and profits. These three pillars are the justice humanity needs in order to maintain the balance and stability of what we call home, the earth. In order to stop the different environmental crises that are going on around the world we need to ensure equilibrium between these three different pillars. The First Nations around the world have always shown great communication, and have embraced the concept of equality and respect for all living things. Our industrial and postindustrial society has, however, favoured the economic model that has devalued social and environmental justice in favour of economic growth.  

For the past couple of generations we have all been practicing what we call incremental sustainability, which is not enough. Incremental sustainability is when we make visible small changes, for example recycling plastic without addressing the fundamental problem that is banning plastic all together. Even those small changes we are making may have some impact in our area, these don’t move the needle across the globe with other poor countries. For example, when you buy an Iphone the components of metal are mined in  poorer countries where the labour and environmental laws are well below our acceptable standards. While more people can buy an Iphone because of this, you can see that it does not balance the three pillars in a global sense. Moreover the pollutants from our discarded technology often end up in these same poorer countries. In order to make change, we need our higher authorities to be looking out for the interest of the many instead of the few. We also need them to think long term about the costs of using our natural resources and impact on the environment.