Ask two people about their understanding of what sustainable society means, and for sure you will receive two quite diverging answers, or maybe two questioning faces. That’s not surprising, since it’s not easy to define sustainability adequately. Even more difficult is to tell what is the actual level of sustainability of a
society and how is progress to sustainability.
If you’re looking for an answer to the question above, the Sustainable Society Index (SSI) can be helpful for you and provide you with the appropriate answers. Recently the third two-yearly edition of the SSI has been published. The results show that the world as a whole is far from sustainable. The spider web – where the outer circle expresses full sustainability – shows at a glance that many of the 24 indicators are way below sustainability. And even the high scores for Sufficient Food and Sufficient to Drink hide the fact that world-wide numerous people have to live without proper daily food and safe drinking water.
Zooming in on the three wellbeing dimensions, teaches us that – on average – Human Wellbeing scores best of the three, though still, there is more than 30% to go to full sustainability. Environmental Wellbeing has a lower score and Economic Wellbeing even more so.
Over the years 2006 – 2010, covered by the SSI, little progress has been made. At this pace, it will take until the end of this century to achieve full sustainability. I’m afraid we cannot afford so.
Of course I realize that the figures presented here reflect reality only to some extent. Choosing other indicators will result in a (slightly) different picture. However, I’m convinced all pictures will present the same message: we can’t afford to just stay aside and not take care of the future of our children and grandchildren, wherever in this world. And certainly we can’t afford to go on discussing which indicators are the best. We´re losing valuable time.
So let’s act now. What to do first of all? That’s up to you. Have a look at the spider web and see which indicator needs most attention in your opinion. Even better, make a spider web for your own country, using the data on the website www.ssfindex.com. That spider web shows which indicators have the lowest scores. You might start with these indicators. Tell your politicians you request that the next four years considerable progress will be made on the way towards sustainability for these indicators and urge the politicians to take appropriate measures to achieve that goal.
Or you can use this information for educational purposes. Or for further research. Or to develop your own tailor made set of indicators for your community. Or just to inform the people around you.
Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: It may seem insignificant what you´re doing, it is important you do it.
Geurt van de Kerk