Earth is to survive and not go the way of the rest of the planets,
shrouded in noxious gases or covered in ice, we must begin to educate
people about our unsustainable actions of the last fifty years.
that the use of chemicals and pesticides became prevalent in farming at
the end of World War II; this coincides with the increasingly frequent
practice of clear-cutting forests. In 1951, New Brunswick began spraying
the forests for the spruce budworm, which began the devastation of the
insect and therefore, fish populations. Growth in the human population has
translated into increases in the number of vehicles, electricity
production, industry, and manufacturing, which all use fossil fuels. The
North American worldview has virtually forgotten conservation. What can be
done to turn the tide? People from around the world must acknowledge that
we have to live within our means and within the means of our environment.
Aimed at countering the problems concentrated in our cities,
sustainable cities began in 1975, with experiments by the World Health
Organization in a few European cities. This initiative mushroomed to a
continental, then global movement. Healthy Cities have essentially the
same goals as eco, green or sustainable communities, using health as their
focal element. In Atlantic Canada, we have the Nova Scotia Association of
Sustainable Communities and the Movement acadien de villages en santé,
head-quartered in Caraquet.
A sustainable community, rather than having a fixed definition, depends
upon the residents' vision and needs. However, two elements are always
contained within the concept of sustainability: 1)
the meeting of the needs of all its residents and 2) living within the
limits of the environment around us.
Here is the definition that a group of Minnesota citizens came up with
back in 1995:
"A sustainable community is a community which uses its
resources to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are
available for future generations. A sustainable community seeks a better
quality of life for all its residents while maintaining nature's ability
to function over time by minimizing waste, preventing pollution, promoting
efficiency and developing local resources to revitalize the economy.
Decision-making in a sustainable community stems from a rich civic life
and shared information among community members. A sustainable community
resembles a living system in which human, natural and economic elements
are interdependent and draw strength from each other."
(from Roseland's Toward Sustainable Communities, 1998).
Good planning is the first pillar of a sustainable community. For a
sustainable community, the town planning aims are to heighten energy
efficiency, consume fewer resources, produce less pollution and avoid
contamination of the natural environment. This allows for maximum
penetration of the sun, the use of natural winds and breezes to cool the
air, and allows for the recovery of as much rainwater as possible. The
protection of the drinking water supply, both in quantity and quality, is
an essential consideration of the town plan. Beauty, in layout and in
architecture, is also an integral part of the sustainable community.
Community centers, parks and shared areas for recreation, gardening and
socializing are planned carefully. Modes of transportation for
pedestrians, cyclists, and wheelchairs, simultaneously contributing to air
quality, are considered in the plan. Several compact, whole communities
make up the larger city, protecting the surrounding countryside.
Governance is the second pillar of a sustainable community. A
sustainable community needs public participation. An informed citizenry
knows and meets the community's needs and can implement this way of
living. Democracy and decision-making practices are renewed, creating a
large role for public consultation and public input, on a constant basis.
To properly begin a sustainable community initiative is to undertake a
thorough public consultation in which the community creates a vision of
their future community, making efforts to include those least likely to be
consulted: the youth, the elderly, the people with special needs, the
immigrants, and the disadvantaged.
A third aspect in a sustainable community is the complex mix of
community culture and social ties. Community culture is the recognition of
the elements of our culture(s), through the discovery and the renewal of
the original and founding culture(s) of the community. This includes
taking a look at the history, stories, traditions and arts of the founding
peoples, including our First Nations peoples. It includes having knowledge
of the natural history of the area and its natural attractions. This way,
we develop pride in our ancestry. We come to value our roots and our
uniqueness. Our culture is the basis of our authenticity, our naturalness
and the true richness of life. This is what makes our community attractive
Economic development, sustainable-style!
"A community enriches itself by its own existence," says Jane
Jacobs, economist and author of "Cities and the Wealth of
Nations", "The Economy of Cities" and her most recent
jewel, "The Nature of Economies". A sustainable community uses
the vision and values of its members to pursue its goal, to endure, to
last, says Marcia Nozick, Canadian urban planner and author.
outlines economic principles for self-sufficiency as follows:
1) do more with less, incorporating conservation, prevention of pollution
2) encourage the circulation of money made in the community as many times
as possible, with a goal of 6-8 times, because once money leaves the
community, it does no good for your own community,
3) substitute locally-made goods for imported goods ; here in Canada, FOOD
is a potential growth area,
4) make something new with the resources of the area,
5) trade with equal partners and
6) use the already established cultural and economic activities of the
area for economic development, for example, conduct tours explaining the
natural attractions of the area.
A final element of a sustainable community includes greening the
community and living within the limits of the environment. We know we've
already exceeded these limits by the level of nitrates in our rivers, the
smell of car fumes, the presence of E.Coli in our water supplies,
and by the hole in the ozone layer. When we add to these conditions the
idea of cumulative effects, over fifty or one hundred years, it becomes
evident that our accepted practices cannot remain the same. New practices
must be adopted to conserve water, to deal with wastewater and storm
water, to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, and to protect and
conserve land. Modernized technologies are now available and competitive
in price. Energy efficiency and conservation methods can actually reduce
our use of fossil fuels by half! Wind and solar energies, combined, can
offer long-term solutions, where the fuel is free and there are no waste
by-products. Wastewater and sewage, often piped directly to the waterways
and lakes, are now being treated in some communities in Nova Scotia and
New England by a biological process, the solar aquatic method. This method
purifies wastewater and sewage, and even heavy industrial waste, within
three to five days, through the presence of a greenhouse containing common
marsh plants, whose roots absorb contaminants. Further, the loss of
natural spaces and green spaces can be resolved through a proper planning
process (and respect for the plan). Land Trusts, which can be supported by
government, citizens and partnerships, can create parks, gardens and model
So, following this brief outline of the elements of the sustainable
community, where do we begin? First, interested citizens must form a
committee and make a proposal to their municipal council. Support from the
latter is essential for the success of such a long-term project. Once you
have the support of the town or city council, a new committee can be
created of interested persons and community leaders.