Sunday, August 26, 2007


a) When communities are perceived as whole systems, and not as individual parts to be addressed separately, their ability to function for the benefit of the inhabitants increases.

Sustainable communities are cyclical communities, where the health and well-being of the inhabitants is increased by the community’s ability to balance the inputs and outputs of the various systems in the community.

In addition to serving what we might usually call “basic” human needs such as food, clothing and shelter, sustainable communities are communities in which other needs, such as “sense of community,” of the inhabitants are considered just as important.

Our interactions, our community social life, or “social capital” is what drives our economic and democratic systems. By emphasizing strong social capital as the driver of our economic and democratic systems, these systems will be further enhanced, which will help to continue to generate social capital.

b) Hallsmith was successful in pointing out some of the fundamental ways in which our cities are dysfunctional. Most prominently, I thought, was the inability of government to look at community systems as interrelated. The example of road deterioration in Randolph was a good description of a vicious cycle and the New England Capacity Building story demonstrated that community development can be much more successful in spurring economic development. Capacity building not only among citizens but also within government about the importance of community welfare and development could go far in solving some of the “vicious cycles” our cities have fallen into.

I was intrigued by the “shifting the burden” archetype as an accessible example clearly demonstrating the concept of delay. As I believe that part of change is educating people about their behaviors, I found this example to be one that could be used effectively to communicate to a city how increased reliance on roads and cars will merely create more of what they see as the main problem: traffic.

c. This was a very broad reading of the basic concepts of sustainability, which given the current condition of our cities, I would have benefited from more concrete examples of these concepts work when applied. It is difficult to look at the figures, especially those in Chapter 4, and imagine them matching the complex and muddied systems our cities have become.

I have always been bothered by the idea that to create a sustainable community it is necessary to move out of the city and create a new set of systems. I was attracted to this class because of the emphasis on applying sustainability concepts to our current cities. This is the only way the community development process will reach those people in cities who need it most.

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