An emergent property arises when individual components or actions, combined together, collectively generate a higher-level aggregate experience. Think democracy. Or plague. Or community. One does not
Thid is interesting stuff but somehow it just does not add up. Might be a semantic problem, if not it would a logic problem making it useless.
For me this statements is controversial:
"The first is that sustainability, like any emergent property, must be developed collectively. Like an ant in his colony, the individual's primary value is as a component of the whole. The second implication is that sustainability, as an emergent property, cannot be mandated from above. It arises, to some extent inexplicably, from the ground up."
"Must be developed" requires an active role whereas "it arises" is something passive. An emergent property is always passive. Hence, in the end you cannot really see sustainability as an emergent property. The fact that ant societies are sustainable and are an emergent property does not mean that thriving towards sustainability equals an emergent property. Ant society are rather particular in that they should be seen as sort of superorganism: an organism built form organisms. If you take away one single caste, the superorganism ceases to exist. Just like taking away your liver will kill you. As such it is logical that sustainibilty is an important constraint in the evolution of ants, and hence in that case is an emerging property.
For human society that will be a bit different. Although I am not sure we need to built our society in a similar manner, I do think we should learn from it in order to build a better society.