Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sustainable Communities Concepts

A community is a dynamic equilibrium. Communities are like living breathing organisms that are constantly changing and “more than the sum of its parts.” Gwendolyn Hallsmith says that connectedness is the defining principle of all communities. Every community, local, government and world is connected and all decisions made will affect others in large and subtle ways. When there is a problem or issue in one sector of the community no matter how insignificant, it will come full circle and affect the whole community in some way. It is important to value every person in the community and for everyone to know their role and how they affect the community as a whole. Open communication and a welcoming environment that accepts diverse opinions where people are “free to make mistakes” is necessary for a healthy community.

Celebrate uniqueness. Every community is special and unique in its own way. When dealing with sustainability and how to develop a sustainable community it is wise to focus on the elements that make a community unique and find ways to sustain them. By focusing on the positive and trying to preserve those special factors can make a community come together. It is easier to implement change when there is a common goal that everyone has. Changes are easier to make when they are not forced

Viewing the community in a holistic way is a crucial element when developing sustainable communities. Addressing only symptoms instead of finding the root cause of the problems, will lead to more problems. The author gave an example about road maintenance and repair problems in a small town. The citizens complained about the poor conditions of the roads and wanted relief. The local government wanted to use all their available funds to completely rebuild the worst roads, thereby depleting funds for all other road maintenance. Thankfully there was software available that allowed the town to see the economic impact that decision would have made and they were able to get a bigger view of their problems.

My question is; how do we view issues in a more holistic way when software is not available? How do we start to implement the ideas of sustainability realistically with limited resources, money, talent, leadership and conflicting agendas? How do we open our eyes to the long term goals and not the short term needs of the moment?

Perhaps our group projects will be a micro study as to how workable sustainable communities could be in the real world. It will be interesting and illuminating to see how our groups handle differing interests and perspectives and the creative solutions we will come up with.

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