Institute for Sustainability



What is sustainability?

Central to sustainability is self-sufficiency and a long-term commitment to the prosperity of our planet and its inhabitants. It means to recognise the needs of local society within a global context, but also the needs of ecosystems and the planet as a whole. This involves pioneering ways for creating mutual benefits between human and environmental systems that enable our society and planet to not only last but thrive.

What is Newcastle University doing for sustainability?

Newcastle University has expertise that applies to a broad range of interrelated sustainability issues such as health, transport, energy systems, ecology, water engineering, food security, biodiversity, and urban planning. The university's Sustainable Campus promotes and demonstrates best practice in sustainability, including biodiversity, carbon reduction, energy and environmental management.

It is developing advanced, holistic approaches which contribute to the progression towards a more sustainable way of life.

Newcastle University is providing evidence for policy and giving realistic predictions useful to global problems such as climate change. It is developing the means to provide mutual benefit across environmental systems which also benefit society.

A sustainable way of life

The environmental, economic and social challenges people face now and in the future have to do with practicing a sustainable way of life whether in cities, rural areas, industry, government or our own back yard.

Humans and other species usually live healthier and better quality lives when their environment and ecosystem are also healthy.

Sustainability draws attention to not only what we consume but how we live. In understanding the interrelationship between society and the ecosystem, it is possible to develop solutions that sustain the planet for present and future generations.

Environmental and social justice

There are clear links between well-being and social and environmental equity. Sustainability is about focusing efforts to reconcile conservation of the planet with livelihoods of its culturally diverse human inhabitants.

Adequate availability of resources, such as food and water, are only available to a limited population, and the way of life of humans is often at the expense of other species and natural habitats.

Sustainability addresses human rights and injustice and people’s responsibility to the environment. This is why good governance is necessary for cohesion, effectiveness and accountability in creating a just society.  

Over multiple time scales

Sustainability puts into perspective how the planet's species, natural resources, habitats and ecosystems evolve, adapt and deplete over time.

Viewing the planet only at the scale of human lifetimes will not achieve its long-term prosperity, and so we need to look at it from a multi-timescale perspective.

Governance also takes place over relatively short time scales, while the social and cultural changes imperative to developing a more sustainable way of life may occur over much longer periods of time.

Science studies the planet and its species over long time scales so is well placed to enable society to develop and implement a sustainable way of life via policy, action and innovation.