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Society > Communities

Healthy and prosperous communities do not just happen. The quality and nature of a community are determined by the choices people make over a number of generations. Ideally, the choices a community makes are knowledgeable and deliberate. But that is not always the case.

One of the first things we learn about communities is that everything and everyone is linked in one way or another, as part of a living system. Like nature, communities are held together by a network of relationships, some of which extend beyond the community. The more communities understand these interactions, the better informed their choices will be.

The three dynamics of a community, economy, ecology and equity, are at the heart of a process called sustainable community development. Sustainable community development is a process and a capacity to make decisions that consider the long-term economy, ecology and equity of all communities. The goal of sustainable community development is to build sustainable communities: communities with the ability to remain healthy and successful over the long term.

The first dynamic, economy, is the management and use of resources to meet household and community needs. Economy implies efficient and prudent use of resources. Healthy local economies must meet certain general community requirements. These include the need for jobs and earnings, affordable land and housing, access to credit, affordable child care, public transport and roads, clean air and water, waste disposal, parks and leisure, emergency services, good schools and health care.

Ecology, another dynamic of the community, is the pattern of relationships between living things and their environment. By consuming natural resources and producing waste, every community leaves an ecological mark. Nearly every decision a community makes affects the environment in some way. Understanding our relationship with the environment involves a close look at how our actions affect it. Communities that desire long-term prosperity consider which actions will protect and develop natural resources for future generations.

A third dynamic of a community is equity, or fairness. Ideally everyone in a community shares in its interests. If the community is successful, they benefit; if it is not, they suffer. Equity is the fairness of relationships between people, groups of people and generations of people. Where there is equity, decisions are based on equality and everyone (regardless of race, income, sex, age or disability) has opportunity and is treated with dignity. Equitable communities provide opportunities for everyone to participate in all activities, benefits and decisions. They consider not only how their choices affect current residents but also how they will affect the choices available to future generations.

From: Communities by Choice: An Introduction to Sustainable Community Development.