Introduction to the Five Principles of Sustainability

Dr Michael Ben-Eli from The Sustainability Laboratory defines sustainability as a "dynamic equilibrium in the process of interaction between a population and the carrying capacity of an environment, such that the population develops to express its full potential without adversely and irreversibly affecting the carrying capacity of the environment upon which it depends." To achieve this balance, he introduces the five principles of sustainability.

The interaction between humans and their environments can be broken down into five domains: the Material Domain, the Economic Domain, the Domain of Life, the Social Domain, and the Spiritual Domain. Each principle is associated with exactly one domain.

The First Principle proposes to "contain entropy and ensure that the flow of resources, through and within the economy, is as nearly non-declining as is permitted by physical laws" to reach sustainability in the Material Domain. The Material Domain constitutes the "basis for regulating the flow of materials and energy that underlie existence".

The Economic Principle is as follow: "Adopt an appropriate accounting system to guide the economy, fully aligned with the planet’s ecological processes and reflecting true, comprehensive biospheric pricing." The Economic Domain provides a "guiding framework for defining, creating and managing wealth".

The Third Principle, attached to the Domain of Life, is about "ensuring that the essential diversity of all forms of life in the biosphere is maintained". The Domain of Life provides the "basis for appropriate behavior in the biosphere with respect to other forms of life".

The Fourth Principle applies to the Social Domain: "Maximize degrees of freedom and potential self-realization of all humans without any individual or group adversely affecting others." The Social Domain provides the basis for social interactions.

The guiding principle of sustainability in the Spiritual Domain states that we have to "recognize the seamless, dynamic continuum of mystery, wisdom, love, energy, and matter, that links the outer reaches of the cosmos with our solar system, our planet and its biosphere, including all humans, with our internal metabolic systems and their externalized technology extensions. To embody this recognition in a universal ethics for guiding human actions". The Spiritual Domain identifies the necessary attitudinal orientation and provides the basis for a universal code of ethics.