The Basic Principles of Sustainability: Learning from Nature
Life on Earth has existed for almost four billion years. Three scientific natural factors play key roles in the long-term sustainability of our planet’s life. These major lessons from nature can help us move towards a more sustainable future.
- Solar energy
- Biogeochemical cycling: the circulation between soil, water, air, and organisms of elements and nutrients needed to sustain life from the environment. Well known examples are the carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen cycles.
- Biodiversity, defined as the variety of genes, species, ecosystems, and ecosystem processes. Biodiversity provides ways for species to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
This is the system mentioned in our mission statement: looking at the way nature sustains itself and translating it into our own practice (‘biomimicry’).
We must remember: our planet does not need saving. It will continue to spin, and orbit, according to all the laws of physics, no matter what we do. The planet is absolutely indifferent to the inhabitants who tread upon it. What does need saving is the continued existence of humans and other species; we humans are moving quickly towards premature extinction and taking many other species with us.
Humans have thrived for the past 11,000 years due to a period of remarkable climate stability. But now, that is changing. Climate has fluctuated before on Earth, sea levels have risen and fallen, the chemical composition of the atmosphere has changed, biodiversity levels have gone up and down, and life has survived several mass extinctions. We are now entering a new era, a period of rapid climate change, causing the sixth mass extension. The question is whether humans and enough other species will survive.
So, what do we at VenhoevenCS consider to be the most important challenges to our survival?
 Tyler Miller, G. and Scott E. Spoolman, Living in the Environment, 19th ed., Boston, 2016, p. 5