Qualicum Institute: Advocating a science-based understanding of ecological, social and economic survivability

Sustainability Science

It's not rocket science...
it's basic science we all need to know

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” —Carl Sagan.

The scientific principles we describe in this section are the tenets upon which we base our work.  The principles provide the basic understanding of what it means to live within the regenerative and assimilative capacity of the ecosphere, i.e. true “sustainability”.

Unfortunately, most politicians and corporations tend not to follow these principles, relying instead on traditional economics—a field that does not take sustainability science into consideration, but relies, instead on economic growth.

“Economic growth is presented as the panacea that can solve any of the world’s problems: poverty, inequality, sustainability, you name it. Left-wing and right-wing policies only differ on how to achieve it…there is an uncomfortable scientific truth that has to be faced: economic growth is environmentally unsustainable.” Federico Demaria1

Sustainability science is the only way to reverse climate change and biodiversity loss
Earth image: Wikimedia Commons, design by L. Richardson

The problem with economics as it is practiced today is that it is a social science, which revolves around the relationships between individuals and societies—it misses the physics part.

As one of our Directors put it: 

“When I go to my vet, the ambience of the clinic is important and since I’m a human filled with love and emotions about my pet, their empathy is very important. But my vet and their technicians first and foremost must also have a grasp on veterinary science—that’s the key piece. They can’t serve me and their empathy is of little value if they don’t have a grasp of veterinary medicine.”

Each of the following ecological principles builds from the previous one, and leads to an understanding of sustainability at its core. We can choose to ignore the wisdom contained in these simple tenets but there is little doubt that we will then suffer the consequences.

  1. Humanity is a part of—not separate from—Nature.
  2. Humanity is completely dependent upon what Nature can provide.
  3. There are limits to what Nature can provide.
  4. Any organism that disregards Nature’s limits threatens its own existence.
  5. Humanity has been disregarding Nature’s limits.
  6. Humanity can choose to live within Nature’s limits.


Stop ecological overshoot caused by economic growth

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