In the last two decades, the concept of ‘Sustainable Development’ has made a steep career as a political and ethical guideline for dealing with the planet’s ecological and social crisis. The concept, globally inaugurated in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development (socalled Brundtland Commission) is, however, not a brain-child of the modern environmental movement. Its blueprint can be found in the professional terminology of forestry. ‘Sustained yield’ had been the major doctrine of international forestry for almost two centuries. This formula is a translation of the German term ‘nachhaltiger Ertrag’. The roots of this concept can be traced back to the era of early ‘European Enlightenment’, when German Kameralists, inspired by the English author John Evelyn and the French statesman Jean Baptist Colbert, began to plan their dynasties’ woodlands ‘nachhaltig’ – in order to hand them along undiminished to future generations. The word itself was then coined in 1713 by Hanns Carl von Carlowitz, head of the Royal Mining Office in the Kingdom of Saxony, in order to meet the challenge of a predicted shortage of timber, the key resource of the time. This paper on the historical evolution of the concept of sustainability is thought to be a contribution to the 20th anniversary of the report of the Brundtland Commision.