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“Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

(WCED, 1987)

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) published a report titled Our Common Future 1, where it was argued that the environment cannot be considered disconnected from the needs, wants, and actions of humans.2 In fact, almost every action we do or plan to do on this planet will create ripple effects of consequence on society, the economy, and our environment.

This relationship between the society, economy, and environment has created what some like to refer to as the pillars of sustainable development (SD), where each pillar plays a vital role in supporting and stabilising SD. Others, like myself, prefer to view these pillars as shown in the image below, as three spheres that influence both each other and sustainable development. Each conceptual sphere indicates interconnected fundamentals of SD; social sustainability, economic sustainability, and environmental sustainability. 2

Infographic of pillars of sustainable development with three overlapping circles: social, economy, environment.

The relationship between the social, economic, and environmental spheres of sustainable development (SD).

The interconnectedness of spheres indicates how important it is to always consider social, economic and environmental dimensions if we want to contribute to community resilience and well-being. Intersectional work and transdisciplinary collaborations therefore play a vital role in shaping the world around us more sustainably.

Through connecting individuals to the broader community and environment, Amava Oluntu is strategically contributing to sustainable development. In the following paragraphs, I will introduce different projects of Amava Oluntu that are linked to the pillars of social development.

Social sustainability incorporates the idea that people are significant by highlighting the importance of accessibility, participation, empowerment, cultural identity, and equity 2. It implies a system of social organisation that eliminates poverty and its influence, but in such a way that does not lead to unstable economies or environmental harm.

Amava Oluntu has a mountain of projects that revolve around social sustainability. Through connectedness, Amava aims to decrease the inequalities found in our society. One such project is the Living Cultures Indigenous Fellowship, where participatory video is used as an instrument to motivate communities through community development. Vukuzenzele, a project that encourages us to “wake up and do it yourself”, focuses on equality and community building. It equips youth with the skills to empower themselves and their communities, such as project management, leadership, and communication skills.

A screening of the Fellowship’s film about Gender-Based Violence and Femicide at The Commons.

A screening of the Fellowship’s film about Gender-Based Violence and Femicide at The Commons. This project has given a voice to youths who can share their thoughts and perspectives on the social issues faced today.

Environmental sustainability emphasises the boundaries of the natural environment, and how Earth’s systems have a balance that needs to be maintained.2 This sphere relates to the carrying capacity of the environment (that is to say, the maximum size a population can be and still be sustained by the environment). Natural capital has to be used in such a way that resources have time to regrow faster than they are consumed. Just as important is the way we handle waste; waste should be discarded no faster than it can be digested by the environment.

An important start to sustaining the environment would be to understand and find value in it. Amava has recently started a project called Pollinating Pride in People, made up of two parts. The first part is in collaboration with Ingcungcu, who runs the Pollinator Garden Programme. This program helped raise awareness of the conservation of Fynbos through interactive learning experiences. They also have started to establish more spaces for Fynbos to flourish in an urban context.

Group of people standing around someone talking.

Facilitator Ceinwen from Ingcungcu is helping us gain an appreciation for Fynbos in the Muizenberg Community Gardens.

Economic sustainability suggests the process of production that allows consumption to be satisfied now without jeopardising future needs.2 For us, currently, this is an unquestionable reality. However, it was previously assumed that nature’s resources were endless and that the economy would grow hand in hand with technology that could replace the resources exhausted by production.2 Of course, that was not the case, as we have put a massive strain on what the environment can provide.

The second part of our Fynbos project, the Young Entrepreneurship Program, is involved with economic sustainability. Youths from Muizenberg surrounds have been equipped to tackle printmaking projects and entrepreneurial endeavours in an effort to ultimately create their own small business.

Our print-makers learning how to create and use printmaking tools with Zayaan Khan.

Our print-makers learning how to create and use printmaking tools with Zayaan Khan.

There is an endless range of activities that people from all walks of life can do to help maintain the stability between the spheres of sustainable development. Whether it starts at work, becoming active in your community, or just making lifestyle changes in your home, everyone can get involved to create a more balanced world in which we live.

  1. World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). 1987. Brundtland Report: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. Sustainable Development Report, Oslo: Oxford University Press.[]
  2. Mensah, Justice. 2019. “Sustainable Development: Meaning, History, Principles, Pillars, and Implications for Human Action: Literature Review.” Cogent Social Sciences.[][][][][][]
Joanne du Randt

After earning her Postgrad in Public Health, Joanne was thrilled to join Amava Oluntu as a Public Health intern to explore her passion for health and social equality.