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Action Planning and the Sustainable Community

Citizens at a Community Meeting "If our development strategies aren't sustainable they will be terminal".
The Economic Renewal Guide - The Rocky Mountain Institute

The action planning process will lead to the development of a community that is ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable. Let's look at several definitions of a sustainable community.

A "sustainable community" seeks to maintain and improve the economic, environmental and social characteristics of an area so its members can continue to lead healthy, productive, enjoyable lives.
Maureen Hart, "Guide to Sustainable Community Indicators"

In a sustainable community, resource consumption is balanced by resources assimilated by the ecosystem. The sustainability of a community is largely determined by the web of resources providing its food, fiber, water, and energy needs and by the ability of natural systems to process its wastes. A community is unsustainable if it consumes resources faster than they can be renewed, produces more wastes than natural systems can process or relies upon distant sources for its basic needs.
Sustainable Community Roundtable, Olympia, Washington

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
UN World Commission on the Environment and Development

Sustainable is the long-term, cultural, economic and environmental health and vitality with the emphasis on long-term, together with the importance of linking our social, financial, and environmental well-being.
Sustainable Seattle

The sustainable community should establish goals and a vision by developing more efficient and effective ways in which to live and grow. It also will involve the participation of the entire community in creating a vision of the community's future that balances economic, environmental and social needs.

Principles of Sustainability

Now that we have defined sustainability we need to look at some general principles which are sensitive to the principles of sustainability and can be used by the community as a basis for selecting and developing action plans. The Provincial Government of Ontario, Canada has created the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy which has developed six guiding principles for sustainable development. It is useful to review these principles prior to commencing the task of developing action plans for the community.

Sustainability at the Local Level

What can you do at the local level to create a sustainable community? The Citizen Planner's Project of Ventura County has developed several ideas for application at the local level, which you may wish to use in your community.

Environmental Justice in the Sustainable Community

Executive Order 12898 "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations" is designed to focus the attention of federal agencies on the human health and environmental conditions in minority communities and low income communities. EPA's Office of Environmental Justice defines environmental justice as:

"The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people, including racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies."

Communities need to be sensitive to the impacts of their actions. Concerns about the impacts of environmental pollution on particular population groups has been growing. There is widespread belief that minority populations and/or low-income populations may bear a disproportionately high burden from pollution.

There are a number of initiatives that the community can take to consider environmental justice in its local decision-making.

  1. Implement public outreach programs and obtain stakeholder input on environmental justice issues.
  2. Educate elected and appointed officials on the principles of environmental justice.
  3. Consider siting, permitting decisions and cumulative impacts and their relationship to environmental justice considerations.
  4. Integrate considerations of economic development with environmental justice.
  5. Develop action plans that are sensitive to environmental justice policies.

Native Americans and the Environment focuses on the roles of Native Americans concerning environmental justice both in the past and present.Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer


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