• Use of the word ‘sustainability’ has increased over recent years to broadly describe a system where any use of resources or use of the environment does not restrict the use or quality for future generations. Many countries, organisations and individuals are attempting to become sustainable in order to ensure that their ways of living can be carried on indefinitely without impacting the lives of future generations.
• The word ‘sustainability’ rather than ‘conservation’ is used more frequently today to highlight the desired holistic nature of human development. Protection of the environment cannot be set aside as a separate endeavour but should be integrated into all our economic, cultural and social activities in order to ensure that all activities are sustainable. This is sometimes called the quadruple bottom line of sustainable development, i.e. the connectivity between economic, cultural, social and environmental factors in every facet of development (or triple bottom line: economic, social and environmental).
• ‘Sustainable practices’ has frequently come to denote the activities that humans undertake to help ensure the environment is protected. For example, recycling ensures that valuable resources are not thrown away but rather reused again and again.
• Sustainable practices can help protect Australia’s coral reefs. 80% of the Australian population live within 50km of the coast. Land use and waterway use can have huge effects on coral reefs. For example, activities such as land clearing and deforestation for agriculture and development can lead to increasing sedimentation on coral reefs, which can smother and kill corals. Additionally, sewage disposal and fertiliser runoff increases the amounts of nutrients travelling through our waterways out to the reef, allowing algae to outcompete the slow-growing corals.
• When one looks closely at coral reefs, it can be seen that no energy is lost or wasted; coral reefs function naturally in an entirely sustainable manner. On the other hand, in cities, a fair amount of waste is produced and resources are used in an unsustainable manner. Eventually these resources, such as oil, will run out. It is possible to learn lessons about sustainability from coral reefs.