“What is needed is an integrated approach that addresses economic, ecological, political, and cultural development as part of a strategy to reclaim and restore community as a focal point in people’s lives and an essential life-support system” (Pierce 5).
Areas of Action Include:
- enhancing local wealth through economic self-reliance
- gaining community control over local resources (self-governance)
- becoming ecologically sustainable
- meeting the needs of individuals
- building a community culture
To achieve these initiatives communities can focus on several personal and group aspects. To fulfill the first item, groups and individuals should attempt to maximize their local resources with an eye on making more with less. Residents should support businesses with a stake in the health and vitality of their community, encouraging money to circulate and remain in the community. If the community lacks certain services, initiatives can be offered to encourage development of the needed skills or attract those who already possess them to the area.
For 2) Forming local committees and organizations to handle community issues provides an opportunity to improve the area while also fostering a sense of purpose for the participants. “Community-based agencies are those whose mission is primarily focused to meet a specific social or human-service need within a given community” (Clifton 9). Such collaborative efforts can be run by volunteers and/or receive local or national funding.
“These agencies are smaller than the more institutionalized nonprofit entities in terms of their operating budgets and the concomitant number of staff members. Nevertheless, these grassroots organizations have proven to be far more effective in achieving their mission than their larger counterparts.” The reasons for this are as follows: “the staffs and directors of these smaller organizations have indicated a much greater willingness to take risks…; the extremely limited financial sources usually available to [these types of] nonprofit agencies simply demand that they operate on a very cost-effective ratio of expenses versus income…; [and] these [smaller] agencies prove to be more effective for the simple reason that their size affords them the ‘opportunity’ to operate on a more personal level with their respective clients and with the community itself” (Clifton 9-10).
For 3) Decentralizing work from the office back into the home using telecommunications is beneficial for both the environment and community building. Less time spent commuting between home and work allows more time for socializing, including heightened community engagement. Greater local attention and governance increases the possibility for more sustainable practices, such as energy-efficient land-use policies. through the creation of self-contained communities where social services, shopping, working, recreation, and housing are within walking or bicycling distance of each other.
Residential neighbourhoods can be intensified to reduce urban sprawl. Concern over wildlife habitats might prompt an urban reforestation program, simultaneously increasing the appreciation of nature and reducing a community's impact on climate change. Local councils should be set up to develop ecological neighbourhood plans as well as offer incentives to ecological enterprises. Energy conservation by-laws for new and existing buildings can be established and enforced along with composting programs for schools and community centers. Programs for recycling and reducing solid waste can expand.
The promotion of urban food production, using converted warehouses, greenhouses and empty lots, is a way of fostering self-sufficiency and beautifying barren or depressing cityscapes. A system of ecological waste treatment should be employed at the neighbourhood level. The restoration of local rivers and the watersheds is required so that they can be used safely for drinking, swimming and fishing.
The benefits stemming from heightened community involvement produce positive repercussions far beyond the immediate vicinity. By taking steps to establish concern for local resources, business, people and climate we enhance the possibilities for growth and success against the ever-changing hurtles of our modern world. Although steps toward minimization and localizing seem regressive at first glance, the social, economic, environmental and cultural advantages sell this lifestyle as an evolving system, one which supports the basics while enabling progressive development.
“Now that the world has been fully colonized, there are no more mysterious ‘other places’ to site an ideal society. We have to do it ‘here’, at home, in the world-space that we know” (Frankel 21).
Carl Frankel. In Earth’s Company: Business, Environment and the Challenge of Sustainability. Gabriola
Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 1998. Print. Clifton, Robert L, Dahms, Alan M. Grassroots
Organizations. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press Inc., 1993. Print.
“Sustainable Development Begins at Home: Community Solutions to Global Problems.” Communities,
Development, and Sustainability Across Canada. Ed. John T. Pierce and Ann Dale. Vancouver, BC:
UBC Press, 1999. 3-23. Print.