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My Journey to Define Sustainability

By Soumia Boudchich

head shot of Soumia Boudchich 1st place winner

What is meant by sustainability? And why is it so important? All the claims, all the global conversation that's going on. She is still a young girl, so why should she care. She asked her teacher about sustainability, he replied briefly, "It means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It's not just about preserving the environment, but also about economic and social development."

If we are willing to protect the environment and cease the consumption of environmental materials, what about jobs and economy? She needed to find her own answer, as her mother once said, if you don't feel it, you won't understand it.

So she started listing all the things that were important to her, and she thought if sustainability is paramount, it should enhance the significant issues in my life.

The first one was family, if she could have more gardens in her city, she would go out more often to play with her sister, to hear the birds, to sleep in the shade of the trees, and most of all to have a deep breath of clean air. And for a second, she remembered the factory next door, the noise, the heavy smog and how it polluted the river. She can no longer go fishing with her grandfather, or even take a trip to the river's edge in the weekends, where the turtles used to crawl out and hide their eggs in the sand.

She imagines if the plant had solar panels, recyclable products, generated fewer pollutants and less dust, she would be happy to visit it with her friends on a school tour, in order to learn how it works in harmony with its surrounding environment. However, that is not the only problem that worries her, as she believes although everything is working well for her, her friend from the poor part of the city will continue to suffer, she can't even go to school as her father cannot work anymore, this is not even his fault, and he got injured in his job. She wrote in big letters, a sustainable job is about people being first, they are the strength and the decision makers. And in the middle of the paper, "People deserve to have a decent living, to be treated equally and fairly and children deserve to learn".

She wondered about those who did not have schooling, and how they could be helped. Like her friend's neighbor, he is a farmer, he is actually uneducated, yet he is able to connect with nature, he knows what is good for the land, when it is about to rain, he is aware of this and has learned it from his father, a knowledge that has been accumulated through many generations. Hence, he should be an organizer, our modern farms can be trained by him. She also stated by saying that "farmers are important for the future".

At this point, she is convinced that sustainability requires innovation and the willingness of human beings to create a future where the economy, society and the environment have the same interests together and achieve all desirable outcomes without harming each other.

Then, if that is the case, she closed her eyes and started to imagine the future. A blue sky, solar panels on every house, a smart and sustainable city where energy is conserved, electrical and hydro powered cars, green spaces in cities which students come to learn how to survive with nature and not just use it, and finally sustainable farms. These dreams are supported by equal people with different paths who have the freedom of choice to achieve their goals.

However, for that to occur, people from all over the world must come together, elders, children and youth. But you can't ask them to go further when they are struggling to live, many of them living in difficult conditions and extreme poverty. That's why, to be sustainable, we have to eradicate poverty.

Now that everything is set into order, she has a larger picture, a more personalized picture of what sustainability ought to be. And that brings up another question: How do we make a difference? Well, it starts with small steps, personal change, if each individual takes a step towards sustainability, then cooperation, foundations will shift, even countries will move towards it. Again in big letters, but in a different color, "Sustainability is a sea of futuristic dreams as well as the sea, it’s a multitude of drops from different sources.