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There are numerous definitions of sustainable communities. Sustainable communities have been defined as those that strive to be democratic, socially just, economically viable, as well as environmentally sound. In this respect, it is evident that the phrase “sustainable communities” comprises of various interrelated facets in the sense that an actions in one aspect is likely to have an impact other aspects. In general, sustainable communities symbolize communities that have designed, established or improved with the main objective of ensuring sustainable living. From this definition, it is evident that sustainable communities place emphasis on four important aspects including municipal governance, social justice, infrastructure, economic sustainability and ecological sustainability. In some texts, the term “sustainable communities” is often used interchangeably with phrases such as sustainable cities, eco-communities and green cities. In addition, different authors emphasize different aspects of sustainable communities. For instance, some authors emphasize the need for natural resources to be controlled by the locals and a flourishing non-private sector for the establishment of sustainable communities. Other authors put emphasis on the importance of social wellbeing and political empowerment. Moreover, others have broadened their view of sustainable communities to include social and cultural sustainability in addition to environmental sustainability. This essay reviews literature relating to sustainable communities and identifies four main important aspects of sustainable communities, which include environment, politics and governance, society, and economy. This essay argues that creating sustainable communities should not only be limited to environmental sustainability; instead, other aspects including politics and governance, society and economic sustainability should be taken into consideration.
The scope of the environment aspect in sustainable communities comprises of natural resources such as water, forests and air among others. Additionally, human activities affect natural resources such as energy and disposal of waste. Other effects of humans are associated with the use of natural resources. It is imperative to have an understanding of how these aspects influence each other for sustainable communities to be developed. For instance, the environmental health of ecological resources depends on the natural forces as well as the effects associated with the disposal of hazardous waste. As a result, it is necessary to outline all the facets of the environmental aspect of sustainable communities. They include ecological resources, air resources, land use, water resources, weather, climate, energy supply and use, land quality, waste management, environmental justice and equity, and environmental awareness.
Ecological resources consist of land and water. In most cases, the scale of influence on them varies from a single location to linking several cities and towns. For ecological resources to be healthy, it is imperative for humans to be in harmony with these resources. This entails respecting and understanding their capacity limitations and thresholds. It also entails embarking on the development that does not only focus on reducing pollution and waste, but also on the beneficial conversion of residues through new, reused or recycled commodities. Because of the past and present trends in development, the majority of the ecological resources are diminishing, which poses the need for their restoration. Moreover, there is the need to conserve, preserve and sensibly manage some resources. Some of the indicators that can be used for measuring the viability of environmental resources include environmental health signs such as biodiversity and people’s ability to sustain the use and value of these resources.
Air resources are also an important environmental aspect in sustainable communities owing to the fact that all living organisms depend on air for survival. The health of air resources is determined by the natural factors and the effects associated with human activities. Problems with air quality stem from the exposure to polluting agents. As a result, the development of sustainable communities requires the identification of potential air-related concerns by individuals working and residing in the community. Particular attention should be paid to vulnerable populations such as older people and younger children. For instance, cities are documenting an increase in asthma cases. Moreover, it is not only imperative to take into account the local facto, but also long-term transport effects associated with air-borne pollutants. Indicators that can be used for determining the health of air resources include the ability of the community to live within the standards set by the government in terms of the clean air standards and the level of exposure to pollutants. Land use is also an important environmental aspect with respect to the development of sustainable communities. The reasons include selection, development and the resultant effects associated with land use, which have an impact on the natural resources’ viability, quality as well as the communities’ economy. Intensive development can help encourage people to be more careful, which in turn enhances air quality. Productive preservation of farmlands can offer scenic views for visitors and locals. On the other hand, poor land use, such as insufficient long-range planning, insufficient building requirements and poor zoning regulations, can hinder the development of sustainable communities through increasing traffic congestions and flooding basements, among others.
Politics and Governance
Politics and governance are concerned with the sense of answerability, obligation and empowerment of people. In addition, they denote the ability of people to sense that they are in control of their lives and are accountable for generating the desired outcomes. The aspects under politics and governance that have been identified as being crucial for the development of sustainable communities include public involvement, leadership and representation, public opinion, and services and laws of the local government. With respect to public involvement, democratic societies are characterized by individuals having responsibilities and rights. The degree of their participation is determined by numerous factors such as the sense of empowerment, skills, availability, and time. Sustainable community requires individuals to gain control over their collective and individual lives. In other words, people ought to have a say in the decisions that have an effect on their lives. Public participation is often measured using statistical figures. With respect to leadership and representation, emphasis is placed on the avenues through which leaders can reach out to the community in order to find out their needs and wants. Representation is related to concerns associated with equity, whereby the representative bodies are a reflection of the people. Public opinion places emphasis on the freedom of expression. Therefore, the development of sustainable communities requires the creation of an environment whereby people are free to articulate their views.
Society is a broad concept with respect to sustainable communities and comprises of concerns associated with the quality of life of people such as literacy rates, birth rates, spirituality, civic participation, community spirit, and stress levels. There are several aspects under the society element of the sustainable communities such as arts and entertainment, civic participation, sense of place in the neighborhood or community, training and education, family solidarity, health, housing, public safety, recreation, social justice and equity, spirituality, telecommunications and media, and the accessibility to and usage of transportation. Arts and entertainment are a crucial prerequisite for cultural sustainability. In the context of sustainable communities, civic participation denotes the degree to which individuals provide assistance to others in problematic situations. These decisions play a crucial role in the establishment of sustainable communities. For instance, successful business entrepreneurs can embark on providing mentorship to those starting businesses. The sense of place refers to the sense of belonging, which includes affection that people feel towards their homes. Sustainable communities can also be developed through training and education by helping individuals to be aware about health hazards, safe housing and public safety.
Economy relates both to community and individual wealth, such as trends in income, personal consumption and poverty. Economic performance, such as cost-effective and productive government infrastructure, is of equal importance. In addition, economic opportunities such as environmental businesses and jobs are stressed as well. It is evident that these aspects of economy are related to other elements of sustainable communities including politics and governance, society and the environment. An important aspect of sustainable communities’ development is local business, which focuses on ensuring that both non-financial and financial wealth is kept within the community. As a result the quality of lives of people increases by boosting life satisfaction, lessening environmental damages, and allowing people to have more control of the choices they make regarding their lives. For instance, locally owned businesses that purchase commodities from each other, recruit locals, utilize eco-friendly business practices and are socially responsibility increase the likelihood of people staying in the community and being productive. Sustainable communities can also be developed through community investments, which lessen costs of not-for-profit and private developers. Public-private partnerships have been recognized as a crucial feature of sustainable communities. Other aspects of economy that can be used for developing sustainable communities include increasing employment, lessening income disparities, and encouraging tourism.
From the discussion, it is evident that the scope of sustainable communities goes beyond the environment, economy, politics and governance, and society. It is also imperative to note that these elements of sustainable communities are interrelated, which means that the actions in one sphere are likely to have an effect on other aspects. The underlying argument is that the development of sustainable communities necessitates a holistic approach that does not only focus on the environment, but also considers other aspects that are likely to affect the environment.