What is a Sustainable Community?

Blue Planet United is dedicated to promoting an agenda for sustainable living and sustainable communities.  But what do we mean by sustainability?

The term is often defined as having an equal balance of the three Es: Environmentalquality, Economic vitality, and social Equity.  Building sustainable communities requires careful integration of environmental, social and economic strategies. If we can focus on all three – not just one – these strategies create a sense of place, personal responsibility, and social well-being that together foster improvements in quality of life.

Sustainable communities are healthy communities where natural resources are preserved, jobs are available, sprawl is contained, neighborhoods are secure, education is lifelong, health care is affordable and all citizens have opportunities to improve the quality of their lives. Who doesn’t want to live in a place like that? Who doesn’t want clean air and clean water and tasty local food and safe playgrounds for children? We can achieve those goals by changing our focus and our behavior.

To sustain is to support without collapse. As the 21st century lurches forward, sustainable communities will be the ones that become more resilient. Pandemics and the climate crisis will require rethinking how we live. For example, in order to avoid pandemics, the world needs to shut down wild animal markets, which are cruel and unsustainable anyway. To avoid worsening climate disasters, we need to transition away from fossil fuels as soon as possible, fossil fuels that are not good for our health in any case.

In this respect, the current pandemic has produced some unexpected and thought-provoking consequences.

  • People have noticed and appreciated bluer skies and cleaner air as a result of the declining use of fossil fuels. Waterways are cleaner too!  The shift to renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, has accelerated, supported by changing public attitudes.  
  • People have seen that disadvantaged communities, minorities, marginalized groups and low-wage industries have been disproportionately affected in the pandemic, highlighting the increasing inequality of the social order that has attracted widespread attention.  It is a reminder that a sustainable community is also a just community that guarantees the right to equal treatment and equal opportunities for everyone.
  • People have experienced a dramatic change in the relationship between work and home life, raising questions about the emergence of new and better ways of living and working.   

If nothing else, we have learned that people can make substantial daily lifestyle changes very quickly when required to do so.  To live sustainably we must endeavor to be civic minded, to treat ourselves and others with respect, and to create innovative solutions to our current problems. 

To be sure, the problems we face are complex, systemic and multifaceted.  But to get started, individuals can take steps on their own, such as:

  • Get to know the place where you live as a bioregion, not just as a political jurisdiction. Get to know native plants and animals. Appreciate the roles they play in your health and well-being.
  • If your income rises, instead of buying more, bigger, or fancier things, reward yourself with less stuff and a simpler life that allows you more freedom and more time for family, friends and community.
  • Engage in social discourse that explores complex issues, avoids stereotyping and extremism, and searches for creative solutions.  

As we work together to make a more sustainable world, we must be kind to ourselves and others, and creative in envisioning solutions for a better future.  

COMPASSION and EMPATHY
As things are now, it may well be that our ability to change the way we live will depend not only on the capacity to be flexible and creative, but also on compassion. In the alchemy of the human soul, almost all noble attributes—courage, love, hope, faith, beauty, loyalty—can be transmuted into ruthlessness. Compassion and empathy alone stand apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us. Where there is compassion, even the poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.

Paraphrased from Eric Hoffer

CLIMATE CRISIS: The Really Big One

From the Executive Director

The global—and local—response to the pandemic is in a sense a testing ground for the capacity of communities to deal with the biggest and most complex challenge of all—the climate crisis. It has not gone away.

In terms of recognition of the danger, and co-operation for the common good, the Covid-19 experience so far yields a very mixed report. And the tensions that are likely to persist in the post-pandemic world will complicate things greatly. 

The question remains: How and when will we change? Will there be a renewed sense of urgency and purpose? Will there be a new global order? Will that allow for rapid progress on this hugely complex issue? 

In order to slow lurking climate disasters, we must greatly reduce our use of fossil fuels. What can we do as individuals? The chart below gives us a start.