Sustainability and Communities

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.  ~Vince Lombardi

Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.  ~Henry Ford

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

We can build an economy that does not destroy its natural support systems, a global community where the basic needs of all the Earth’s people are satisfied, and a world that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized. This is entirely doable. ~ Lester Brown

One of the paramount foundations for any type of sustainable development is the support of a community. In this sense, a community can mean several things; it can be people living in a close, defined area, a group of people with common beliefs (ethnic, cultural, religious, etc.), a group in a shared profession, a group with shared ownership of something, a school or university community, or a group of people or countries with common interests and goals.

Sustainability is not a static concept. The ideals and values of a community need to be molded around supporting this goal so that it can be maintained in its ever-changing state. In order to do this, studies on communities and the ways that groups of people form their values must be performed. Engagement must be initiated at the planning level, and this planning must be inclusive and collaborative, to ensure full support is maintained.

Plans must be enacted at an enforceable yet controllable level. Too large of a group may contain too much diversity in interest, causing inability to harmonize, while too small of a group may not contain enough power and authority to move forward. I believe that almost any type of community can be engaged, depending on internal composition and organization. Schools, church groups, neighborhoods, cities, countries, and groups of countries can give forth to meaningful development at their own levels. Working together as a community toward sustainable goals can encompass all aspects of sustainability, including economic, social, and environmental sustainability. In addition, cooperation, collaboration, and interaction will increase the internal sustainability of the community by increasing social capital.

There are many cases within today’s society that illustrate the concept of power in numbers. Most recently, the revolution in Egypt serves as an inspiring example:

An insight into the lives of the young revolutionaries can be seen in this amazing sample of photojournalism :

Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

Another example of a rather large community working together to achieve sustainable goals is the global initiative by the UN and the word- wide Academic community in a project called the United Nations Academic Impact. This project includes over 500 institutions in more than 90 different countries that have committed to 10 key principles from the Charter of the United Nations. The principles cover the areas of human rights, literacy, sustainability, citizenship, economic stability, and conflict resolution. Each institution involved is committed to yearly projects that will encompass these principles. When speaking about the project at it’s announcement, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, expressed that “By sharing ideas, across borders and disciplines, we can find solutions to the interconnected problems that cause so much suffering.”

Check out the New York Times article titled “UN wants Universities to Help Foster Development” here:

And the project website, including a full list of principles, activities, and participation here:


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