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Why The Millennial Generation Needs to Redefine Sustainability

02/11/2013 11:07 am ET | Updated Apr 13, 2013

Achieving sustainability as a state of existence should be our number-one global priority. In fact, unsustainability is a product of what the world perceives to be the most pressing issues of our time. Conflict, resource scarcity, industrial takeover, economic disparity, and government partisanship represent only few global predicaments that have created an unsustainable world. Despite the true multidimensional nature of sustainability, modern society has fallen into the impractical habit of equating "sustainability" with "environmental stability,"two terms that are not, by any means, interchangeable. This ideological blasphemy has become an omnipresent pestilence so toxic that it has broken even the strongest pillars of sustainability. The U.N recently pinpointed seven necessary questions that need to be answered in order for the world to be sustainable during the much-anticipated and very disappointing RIO + 20 summit in Brazil. As expected, nearly all of these questions are centered on eradicating environmental malpractice:

  • "How can we provide access to clean energy for everyone, and make sure that the energy we produce doesn't contribute to climate change?"
  • "How can we make sure that our oceans are healthy and that marine life is not threatened by pollution and climate change?"
  • "How can we build better transportation systems that allow us all to get where we want to go, without causing too much congestion and pollution?"

Even the most valued high school essay-writing resource, the Apple Dictionary, makes this false association, defining sustainable as, "Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding the depletion of natural resources."

I challenge this misconception; this jaded view of sustainability. In contrast, I define sustainability as "a global state of existence of minimal conflict, environmental stability, just and open minded societies, and overall good governance, that operates in close-looped cycles, maintaining and improving upon itself simultaneously." This definition is a more cohesive and holistic representation of sustainability. This is an aspiration, an objective -- it's a dream that I have for the millennial generation and the future generations that claim its inheritance. Despite my relentless commitment to sustainability, I regretfully admit that I have unwillingly adopted this dream out of necessity, not desire.

The millennial generation has inherited a world of discord, environmental instability, destitution, economic disparity, intolerance, corruption and resource depletion. But, despite this disheartening truth, I don't believe our placement in history to be unfortunate, but rather a force of circumstance. In this climactic era of international connectivity and collaboration, the millennial generation has the unique capability to call upon each of its members and unite against unsustainability; a power yielded by no previous generations. However, before we confront perhaps the largest crisis to date, it is imperative that we leave behind this societal dogma and redefine sustainability, recognizing its multi-dimensional nature. Then, and only then, can millennials in all sectors, regions of the world, fields of study and areas of passion unite in the journey towards sustainability and the fight for our future. This will no doubt be an uphill battle, but we cannot stand idly by and watch the slow-motion implosion of our world. We indeed have the power to bring this impending doom that we face to an abrupt halt.

In the words of the President Obama, "Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for."

I plan to explore sustainability in future months through a series of seven in depth installments, of which this is the first.

Prashanth is currently the CEO/Founder of Unheard Voices, an organization empowering youth to fight for a sustainable future.