Introduction to Sustainability

Introduction to Sustainability - Key SQA Definitions

What has Humanity done as a species? 

Over human history, we have exploited natural resources for our own benefit, getting the food and water, shelter and energy resources we need to survive. 

For tens of thousands of years, the impact we have had as a species was limited due to our small numbers, as well as limited technological understanding. However, since the mid-18th century, the Human population has increased massively and technological development has allow us as a species to exploit the environment at a rate never before seen. 


Since 1971, the United Nations has recognized less economically developed countries (LEDCs) as a category of States that are deemed highly disadvantaged in their development process, for structural, historical and also geographical reasons. LEDCs face more than other countries the risk of deeper poverty and remaining in a situation of underdevelopment. 

These countries are characterized by their vulnerability to external economic shocks, natural and man-made disasters and communicable diseases. As such, the LEDCs are in need of the highest degree of attention from the international community. 

The diagram below shows the 46 countries currently recognised as LEDCs:-

The increased pressure that increasing population has placed on the Earth's resources is huge and is unsustainable in the long run. Global consumption rates show that we are currently using more water, food and other natural resources than the Earth can provide long term, and this is being driven by the More Economically Developed Countries (MEDC's):-

However, if usage of natural resources is dominated by MEDC's, the increase in population is dominated by Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDC's) :-

This difference in population growth between MEDC's and LEDC's is due to the differences in the fertility rates. Women are statistically more likely to have multiple children in LEDC's than MEDC's. 

In the diagram below, the colour coding shows the average number of children born to women in that country in 2020 :-

The video below shows an explanation of the causes and effects of overpopulation:-

The video below shows the effects of the Earth's climate rising by only 3 degrees :-

Sustainable Development

In recent years, there has been a big focus on how we can tackle these globally important issues. One major part of this focus has been on Sustainable Development.

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Sustainability takes into account social, environmental and economic factors. 

Creating jobs locally, producing food ethically and improving the quality of life all fall under the society category.

Using renewable energy sources, recycling and ensuring no or minimal levels of pollution are all environmental considerations. 

Ensuring profit is made and sustainable tourism initiatives would be economic considerations. 

Global Citizenship

Global citizenship is an awareness of the world as a global community and recognition of the rights and responsibilities of citizens within it, this includes all of us, not just politicians and business leaders. This can be seen on a global, national and individual level.

Global : United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. 

Key to this are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), goals that are focused on ending poverty around the world, protecting the planet and ensuring a new prosperity for everyone.

The videos below show an overview of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as well as a in depth discussion of these goals:-

National : The National Performance Framework (Scottish Government)

The National Performance Framework (NFP) is Scotland’s way to localise the UN SDGs. The NPF has a focus on tackling inequalities so that no one in Scotland is left behind as all of Scotland works together to achieve the Goals.

The aims of the framework are :-

These aims have been split into 81 indicators which the Scottish Government use to assess progress for the NFP. As of February 2023, the progress towards these indicators are as follows:-

Note - For a (very!) in-depth view of current progress against these indicators, please see - 

NPF Indicator Data Breakdown 

Individual : Global Citizens

In order to create a society of environmentally responsible global citizens, there is a need to educate the public on ways that they as individuals can make a difference. 

Global citizens will:

Some examples of things you can do to be a good global citizen include:

Note - For more information on what you can do to support Global Citizenship. please see -

UN - The lazy person's guide to saving the World