The United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service explains the "theory" of sustainable development:
[begin quote] In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development published the frequently quoted book Our Common Future. The Commission observed that "the environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, needs, and attempts to defend it in isolation from human concerns have given the very word 'environment' a connotation of naivete in some political circles." This linkage between the needs of people and the future of the earth's natural environment was recognized with the term sustainable development. "The environment is where we live and development is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode."
The most frequently used definition of Sustainable Development was written by the Commission as, "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
The Earth Summit, convened by the United Nations to talk about how to promote development while protecting the environment (sustainable development), was special in the history of forests in that forests were on the international political agenda for the first time. Agreements that focused on forests were the first of their kind and included the Forest Principles, the Biodiversity Treaty, and Global Climate Change Treaty.
In addition, an action plan for the 21st century (called Agenda 21) was developed to guide nations toward the sustainable development. Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 is concerned with forests.
The Earth Summit resulted in international acceptance at the highest political level of the linkage between human welfare and conservation of the environment. The terms sustainable development and sustainability have subsequently become common in conservation and economic literature. [endquote]
USDA Forest Service Sustainable Development: "With increasing frequency we hear of the accelerating destructive impacts of human development on the global environment. The largest gathering of the world's political leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janerio was testimony to the acceptance of this as a legitimate threat to human welfare. The Earth Summit called for sustainable development. As the leading conservation organization in the United States, the USDA Forest Service should be a key player in meeting President's Clinton's commitment to sustainable forest management (SFM) by the year 2000. "