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Finnish Environment Institute | Suomen ympäristökeskus | Finlands miljöcentral

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Goal: socially fair and ecologically sustainable well-being

Sustainable well-being means both an equitable global distribution of well-being at present as well as the securing of well-being for future generations. Studies often equate well-being with happiness, life satisfaction, or a high standard of living. Well-being nevertheless has more dimensions than this.

Sustainable well-being is often linked with needs shared by all of the people in the world. For example, everyone has a need for health, a reasonable standard of living, close relationships, meaningful activities, and self-realisation.

The fulfilment of the needs requires different kinds of goods, modes of action, and institutions. Societies need to secure the needs of the individual by promoting democracy and safety in the living environment and by supporting housing, health care, and education, for example.

Sustainable well-being does not mean that people's essential needs should be banned or that the fulfilment of the needs should be reduced. It actually means a balance in the fulfilment of the needs. It is important to change the kinds of means and methods that are harmful for the environment, with which well-being is currently pursued. The change does not always harm well-being. In fact, the opposite can be true. For example, changing the diet to focus more on vegetarian food, increasing exercise, or shortening working time are means of fulfilling needs that both promote well-being and reduce environmental damage.

Functioning ecosystems are of vital importance

People are a part of nature. For this reason, functioning ecosystems are vital for human well-being. The various benefits and significance of ecosystems for well-being are called ecosystem services. People would not get on without the provisioning services offered by ecosystems, which include energy and natural resources, for example.

Regulating ecosystem services, such as the water cycle and the pollination of plants are essential. Nature also offers cultural services, which include the possibility for recreation and aesthetic experiences. Supporting ecosystem services, such as the formation of soil, photosynthesis, and the nutrient cycle, are a foundation of human well-being. If humans significantly disturb these ecosystem services with their own activities, they will damage the foundation of their own well-being.

Many ecosystem services that secure well-being are currently growing weaker. For example, the use of chemicals and the disappearance of diverse green areas have led to a reduction in insect populations. This harms the pollination of plants, including blueberries, fruit trees, and rape, leading to lower crop yields.

Natural diversity is essential for the well-being as well as the health of people. A connection with nature exposes people to a diverse array of microbes. This strengthens immune defences against autoimmune disorders, such as allergies and certain cancers.

Time spent in a green environment also reduces stress and serves as an inspiration to exercise. In an urban structure it would be important to consider the adequacy and location of green environments. There should be nature near day care centres and schools in particular.

Published 2018-09-13 at 10:45, updated 2018-09-13 at 10:45

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