Association of American Geographers AAG - My Community, My Earth
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Sustainable Development

The United Nations defines "sustainable development" as:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This common definition was derived from the 1987 report entitled "Our Common Future" by the Bruntland Commission.

Agenda 21 outlines a list of sustainable development themes in a 40-chapter programme of actions developed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A related set of sustainable development issues is identified in the Millenium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals are an ambitious agenda for reducing poverty and improving lives that world leaders agreed on at the Millennium Summit in September 2000. For each goal one or more targets have been set, most for 2015, using 1990 as a benchmark.

Ten years after the conference in Rio, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was held in 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Slated as a follow-up,  the WSSD presented the opportunity to showcase progress made in many communities as a result of earlier environmental efforts. The My Community, Our Earth partnership was born in this context, aiming to create an international program that would bring sustainable development themes to light in local contexts, involve youth and using geographic concepts and tools.

A set of five important themes  were highlighted at the WSSD, drawing from words by then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan that indicated five areas of an “ambitious but achievable agenda”: Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and Biodiversity.  These WEHAB themes also form a framework around some of the MyCOE resources, like the Geography Digital Learning Adventures.

MyCOE continues to contribute to the international conversation about sustainable development, led by the United Nations each year through the work of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development, which was created after the Rio conference to ensure effective follow-up and implementation of the Earth Summit agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels.  Their multi-year program of work features annual priority focal topics and cross-cutting themes from 2004 through 2017, organizing decisionmaker and stakeholder sessions in New York each Spring to review progress and consider policy. MyCOE is also featured prominently on the US Government’s front home page for Sustainable Development Partnerships.

Explore other sustainable development themes from our list of recommended learning resources.