IT WAS WITH the Bruntland Report as it is called, the UN report on "our common future" from 1987, which established the myth of the three pillars, Economic, Social and Ecological Development. Since then, they have hung there as a matter of course when it comes to sustainability. They are mentioned in the sustainability programs of universities and colleges, in courses and in textbooks. They are found in companies' sustainability profiling and in sustainability goals.
Still, these three areas do not have much to do with sustainability at all. It is a political invention that disappears out of the house as soon as you open the door, like a gust of wind. It may sound good to include concepts such as Economics and Social Justice in the same spirit, but they actually do not have much to do with the matter. They have been added because it sounds politically correct.
Sustainability is about balance in ecosystems. For humans, this means that we must adapt our withdrawals from the earth's resources to what nature can give us and still be allowed to remain. It is thus nature that determines how much we humans can take from it, not demand in the consumer society and not depending on what social level we want to live on or how we allocate resources.
The idea of three pillars emerges in different variations. People sometimes talk about three E's: Economics, Ecology, Empathy. It is quite characteristic of the ritualization of ideas, that once something has been established, it is no longer someone who questions the concept, but one imitates it as a chorus that cannot be changed.
If there is any cornerstone, or rather the basis of the sustainability phenomenon, it is the question of regrowth. It is from the regrowth that we can extract resources, and then only as much as the system can withstand. Today, it is clear that man overexploits virtually all natural resources, in all continents. In order for man to be able to live in a sustainable situation with a sustainable development, man's numbers must be limited, as well as his withdrawal of resources. The earth is not infinite and we can not continue to act as if it were. Now we have reached the end of the road and we are in the situation "Peak Everything".
Of course, most agree that a new economic system is needed to transform society into a sustainable system. But the economy is still only a means, not a pillar. Bengt Hubendick once wrote that Economics means housekeeping, Ecology means the doctrine of the house. It then becomes obvious that the Economy must be subject to the Ecology. In today's speculative economy, on the contrary, it has taken over everything from production and consumption to nature conservation and the basic necessities of life that are overhead are owned by banks that speculate in real estate and make sure to force the citizen to borrow money from the banks that then also own the housing.
What social justice has to do with sustainability is unexplained and one could just as easily and perhaps rather talk about peace and freedom. Because without peace, it is difficult to work towards a transition to sustainability.
With the myth of the three pillars as the backbone of the concept of sustainability, one undermines a development towards a real transition to sustainability. It is clear that sustainability is increasingly becoming a greenwashing concept where companies as well as public institutes use sustainability to get away with not having to do anything at all, other than to think that the business is sustainable.