For the last ten years, the words ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ have been used by many prominent political and economic leaders. But what is sustainability really and is it possible to accurately measure the sustainability of countries’ economies objectively? This study focuses on three sustainability models, namely the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), the Sustainability Assessment by Fuzzy Evaluation (SAFE) and the Sustainable Human Carrying Capacity (SHCC), and their evaluations on the sustainability of the Hungarian economy and environment. Furthermore, it also surveys the opinion of Hungarian undergraduate economics students on the Hungarian economy and its sustainability. The study shows that the ability of current sustainability models and measures to give accurate portrayals of countries and regions is problematic, because they use different definitions of sustainability, use different environmental and/or economic indicators, do not differentiate between the impacts of the individual indicators, and are able to be used for political purposes. This is especially true for Hungary, as the country’s economy is crumbling with increasing social unrest, yet sustainability models give it a high ranking. Also, the Hungarian students’ views on the country’s sustainability depend on what school of economics they were taught in, and what they think about Hungary’s past, current and future economic and environmental situation.
The purpose of this study is to question the world’s dependence on coal power by exploring the avenues through which coal production (extraction, transportation, and combustion) impact the health, climate, and economic wellbeing of communities. It uses South Africa as a case study because South Africa has a high percentage of coal in its energy mix and extracts large amounts of coal. This research finds that coal production in South Africa worsens the health of South African communities and accelerates climate change, threatening the food and water supplies of millions of people within and outside of the country. This analysis does not find conclusive evidence that coal production contributes to widespread economic growth in South Africa. It also reveals that potential gains from economic growth on communities are offset by health and climate damages.