Sustainability Bites

There is no such thing as a free lunch

Sustainability is a big idea, both complicated and complex. This blog seeks to engage you with the multiple dimensions and consequences of sustainability (and sustainable development), particularly those concerned with finding the right long-term accommodation between environment and development.

We’ve called it ‘sustainability bites’ because we aim to make each of our essays short, engaging and digestible. We hope you’ll enjoy reading them and learn something as you go.

But these bite-sized reflections will also hopefully engage you with the complexity of the field of sustainability. We hope that you will discover, as we have in preparing these stories, that there are no absolute rights or wrongs in this debate, but there are serious trade-offs and important consequences resulting from the decisions we make, and the way we make them. Which is to say, a real engagement with sustainability has bite.

‘We’ – the authors – are Peter Burnett and David Salt. Both of us have many years of experience working in around sustainability; Peter as a regulator and policy adviser, David as a science writer. Not that this experience has provided us with any absolute answers or guaranteed policy prescriptions for successfully engaging with sustainability. Our experience has, however, given us many interesting examples of how ideas on sustainability have played out in real life.

Given our background, interests and experiences, Sbites naturally pulls towards biodiversity conservation, science and policy, though it is our fervent hope that we are not captured by the traditional thinking that has evolved over time within these silos. You can be our judge on that.

By ‘policy’ we mean solutions for society’s problems – practical, constructive, implementable ideas for a resource constrained world dealing with a degrading environment facing an increasingly uncertain future.

Though, if we don’t come up with a better set of answers, we’ll still be happy if we can generate a more relevant set of questions. For, ultimately, Sbites aims to help us unpick our own understandings on sustainability, reflect on what we find, and reconstruct the manner in which we frame this massive, amorphous constantly shifting challenge.

About Sbites’ authors



David Salt has been writing across the spectrum of science, technology and the environment for decades. He began by establishing a national popular science magazine called The Helix for CSIRO Education. He was also Editor of Newton magazine (for Australian Geographic), and Materials Monthly and ScienceWise (for the Australian National University). Between 2007 and 2018 he wrote and produced Decision Point for the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, a research magazine on the latest environmental decision science. In addition to writing for Cosmos, G-Mag and Australasian Science, David has also co-authored several seminal texts on biodiversity and resilience science. He is currently the Managing Editor of the Global Water Forum.
You can follow David on Twitter @davidlimesalt



Peter Burnett was a long-time senior public servant before returning to ANU in 2013 to pursue, through research, solutions that he felt were missing from environmental policies of governments federal and state, past and present. He started as a practicing lawyer but was drawn increasingly over the years, like a moth to a flame, to policy work. In 1996, after a management shake-up, he found himself in the soon-to-be-abolished job of Pollution Control Authority for the ACT. This happy accident immersed him in the environment, an environment (pun intended) in which he has been swimming ever since. Moving to the Commonwealth in 2000, Peter has been responsible for issues as diverse as chemicals management, heritage and environmental law reform.