Experts are working on a new, wider definition of sustainability. 

A new paper spells out new terms to expand the concept of sustainability to non-human species and their needs.

Lead researcher Dr Christoph Rupprecht, says there is a critical flaw in the original concept of sustainability.

“Past resource management based definitions of sustainability have ignored the fact that the wellbeing and needs of all living creatures is interdependent in ecologically complex ways,” Dr Rupprecht says. 

The new multispecies concept of sustainability could overcome this flaw, meeting the needs of current and future generations of all species.

Researchers combined the latest studies on how species interact, ecologically and socially, with insights from Indigenous scholars and even cybernetics.

“Whether you look at climate change, biodiversity decline or microplastic pollution, sustainability efforts are failing across the board. But radical transformation requires the right tools,” Dr Rupprecht said.

“Only a concept that understands and fosters complex multispecies relationships can help sustain the well-being of species depending on one another, today and tomorrow.”

Visualisations of sustainability to date display environment, society and economy with an equal weighting, despite the latter two being entirely depend on the environment.

“In contrast, our conceptual models demonstrate the interdependence of human, animal, plant and microbial societies,” Dr Osborne said.

“They emphasise how the earth system including landscapes, cities and the bodies of living things are shaped by shared agency.”

Dr Rupprecht acknowledges that many of the world’s best practices in terms of sustainability have been developed by Indigenous people and are part of traditional ecological knowledge systems.

“These societies and cultures have the best track records in co-existing with other species,” said Dr Rupprecht.

The team hopes their findings will be a starting point for exploration and discussion about topics ranging from what multispecies cities might look like, to the implications of a multispecies inspired concept of public health.