An exciting transformation is underway in communities around the world. Citizens around are taking action in their cities and towns to protect the environment, address poverty and other social issues, and improve the quality of life now and for the future.
Communities are discovering that when residents, local governments and business work together, destructive patterns of development can be transformed into beneficial outcomes that provide prosperity which is ecologically and socially sustainable.
Ecological sustainability, economic growth and social equity are inextricably linked and must become mutually beneficial. It is not growth itself that is the problem, but how we manage growth that determines whether or not our communities flourish or disintegrate into ecological, economic and social crisis. To avoid crisis there must be a different kind of development, a pro-active strategy based upon policies and programs which respect these vital interconnections.
The power of sustainable community development grows when people work together to transform harmful patterns of development into beneficial outcomes that provide prosperity which is ecologically and socially sustainable. Sustainable community development rests on an understanding of social, economic and ecological elements as intertwined, especially where social values influence economic decisions that have ecological outcomes.
Public policy makers cannot achieve the goal of sustainable communities without active public support. Innovative leadership is needed to transform urban growth into a positive movement toward long-term economic prosperity, social justice and ecological stability.
Sustainable community development will only be achieved by mobilizing the energy, creativity and knowledge which exits in every community, professionals, academics, community group leaders and concerned citizens. When citizens participate in the decisions which affect their lives they become stakeholders in the process of change.
A study of 150 local governments found that sustainable development was more successful when governments worked with citizens and community organizations. Ensuring that local citizens understand the importance of sustainable community development, are committed to its goals and involved in its implementation is essential to achieving lasting results.
The transition to sustainability also requires visionary leadership. We share one planet, and our demands for space, resources, consumer products, and waste disposal are raising serious concerns and even grave predictions. Bluntly put, if everyone adopts the wasteful and polluting ways of industrialized societies, we risk the survival of life on Earth.
Our current patterns of urban settlement are unsustainable. Many environmental problems are global in scale and yet it is at the community level, where people live and work and raise their families, that the challenges must be met. All of our decisions have an impact, whether reducing waste, choosing public transit, conserving water and energy or building green.
These are immense issues whose solution demands a generation prepared to work for future generations as well as the present. Visionary leaders understand our responsibilities to each other, other species andfuture generations. They recognize the importance of longterm strategies which seize opportunities while preventing future problems.
They also understand that success depends on the willing participation of all citizens. Exemplary leaders articulate the shared needs and aspirations of the community, and reassure citizens that the risks necessary to achieve a brighter future are worth taking. They offer a dynamic, forward looking and positive vision which motivates people to get involved.
Human development which respects our dependence on each other and the natural systems of which we are a part provides the best opportunity to achieve peace, prosperity, social justice and healthy environments.