We have to live, act and develop our economy in a sustainable way. Sustainability, so it seems, is all we wish for, but we do not know how to explain it in words. The notion of sustainability is clearly misunderstood, not because of its original meaning, but rather because of its general misuse. The word “sustainability” or “Sostenibilidad” was first used more than twenty years ago, during the climate summit of Rio de Janeiro in 1992, by politicians and representatives of non-governmental organisations who defined it as an aim of international politics. Sustainability was conceived as a policy which allies social, economic and ecological actions. From then on it was considered sustainable to develop the national economy so that the producing country profits from its own activities, for local companies to hire top people in the country and for natural resources to not be used up, but preserved instead. Consequently, climate protection and preservation of bio-diversity play an important role in these debates. Extremadura has taken the lead in sustainable policy, not because it was forced to, but because the species conservation and the involvement of the Extremeños in its commitments are the best that the region can achieve. According to the sustainability report of the environment ministry of Spain, Extremadura, together with two other provinces, Asturias and La Rioja, most frequently spends money per capita on sustainable development projects, among which includes the improvement of ecological farming. The commitment of the region is already bearing fruit: Extremadura ranks fourth for consumption and sale of agrarian products. In Extremadura plant contamination by co2 emission was the third lowest of all self-governed regions in Spain between 1987 and 2000. These records demonstrate it is clearly possible to ally high output and environmental protection.
“Sustainability” begins with the inhabitants. That is why the environment department of the Extremadura government launched a Europe-wide exceptional environmental protection project in Almendralejo, a town south of Merida. The town administration has tightened its measures for waste separation. However, they did not just pass a law; they began information campaigns to encourage acceptance of the rules. Actions were taken to make the residents aware of the natural richness of Almendralejo; richness in which they have been living for generations without being conscious of it. The population got an idea of what they were encouraged to protect, and was willing to be convinced of the waste separation measure. Extremadura implements this awareness raising policy in all its sustainability projects, of which there are a great deal, namely “Las Vegas del Guadiana” in Villafranco del Guadiana, a research centre for water ecosystems and fish stocks, “Los Hornos” in Sierra de Fuentes, a school for environment studies, the mobile environment school “Ecobus”, travelling exhibitions about the natural resources of the province, and many more similar institutions. On behalf of these projects, Extremadura aims to give its population a wake-up call. They are the ones who have to protect and conserve this country, which is so naturally beautiful. The Extremeños are willing to be converted to the cause.