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As humans, we make choices. Many say this is what distinguishes us from other
creatures. With change as a constant, we are continually presented with a
great number of choices—and we must choose. The change represented by the
divergence of humanity from the rest of the natural world is massive, rapid,
and in need of transformation. This book, with its strong focus on the individual
and her or his willingness to grow and forge new relationships with herself
or himself, others, and her or his community, is a guide for that transformation,
which can help create a sense of place where it may not now exist.
Until I moved to the Lake Superior Basin of northern Wisconsin, I did not understand that it is a sense of place that brings people into civic life,
with its committees, commissions, and governmental decision-making process.
I did not understand that a sense of place starts with the individual. Nor
did I fully understand, even after 20 years as a city planner, that communities
with this kind of heart are more likely to value planning as a tool of
self-determination and therefore are less likely to allow market forces to
shape their futures.
I know what market forces do. I live in a former boomtown, a shipping terminal for the natural resources of the area—lumber, ore, granite, and brownstone. When all of this natural wealth had been extracted, when its abundance was
exhausted, the company left the "company town." We are still recovering—four
decades later. Fortunately, we are now advancing new ways of thinking and
positioning ourselves for a healthier future.
Setting the Stage for Sustainability: A Citizen's Handbook provides a rich and valuable understanding of how we can nurture a healthier future and cultivate
a connection to one another and to the place in which we live. People typically
develop a sense of "place" through investments (both material or financial
and nonmaterial), such as work, family, groups and organizations of mutual
interest, recreation, and so on.
Other kinds of connections are found through such actions as protecting spaces and buildings of historic, cultural, or spiritual value; initiating annual
community-wide events; recognizing people and their contributions to the
community; and integrating music and the arts into the daily life of the
community. But, most importantly, before we can create social/environmental
sustainability, we need to learn, understand, and embrace the reasons why
so many people feel unrooted and apart in their own communities.
The authors have made many contributions in Setting the Stage for Sustainability: A Citizen's Handbook. Among them are positive and constructive ways of looking at potential obstacles to building a sustainable community. A major obstacle
is citizen apathy, represented by low turnouts of voters and a general decline
in participation in civic life, which have led many people to a skeptical
if not cynical view of our democracy.
If no one shows up to vote, do we have a democracy? Such cynicism can be just as damaging to the achievement of the democratic ideal as apathy. Like
fear, cynicism can paralyze.
Taking a positive view, however, the authors see apathy as "a disguise for a deep hunger to learn within the safety and nurturance of community." They
choose to see this unexpressed power of the citizenry as fuel for change,
rather than as waste, disarming the negative interpretation that would validate
Maser, Beaton, and Smith say that through positive thinking and the willingness to risk, we can indeed be creative forces in our respective communities and
in the world—converting societal waste into fuel or food for microorganisms,
dysfunction into function, fear into hope and even excitement about the
possibilities lurking in risk. They challenge us to be artists and embrace
the full palette of opportunities that are at hand, to design a future, the
exact dimensions of which we need to be comfortable not knowing, even as
we begin to paint. They advocate making plans but not planning the results,
believing that it is both the positive process and trust in the process that
will foster the kind of world we all want to have and of which we want to
be a part.
Consistent with the principles of sustainability, the authors analyze and describe good and bad institutionalized social patterns in an ecological
sense. They emphasize the importance of each component to the whole, in this
case the individual person.
If we want to be proponents of biodiversity, we must honor individuals and their unique contributions to the ecosystem of which we are all an inseparable
part. We must see these contributions as essential ingredients in the integrity
and healthy functioning of the whole. But individuals must value their own
contributions as well, something that community, government, organizations,
business, and industry can help engender by "empower[ing] individual intelligence
and honor[ing] intuition."
By helping us to see the connection of the individual to the whole, the one to the many, this book stands out as a remarkable tool, as does Sustainable
Community Development: Principles and Concepts [by Chris Maser 1997]. Each
invites us to begin setting the stage for sustainable communities, ones more
in harmony with the rest of the natural world, where understanding and acceptance
of the current situation form the first step toward change.
The authors guide us toward an understanding and acceptance of our social failure, particular in the United States, to adapt to the natural landscape in ways that perpetuate life and conserve options for future generations
through a thoughtful analysis of our economy, its history, and its evolution.
In addition, Maser, Beaton, and Smith help us to see conflict as a natural
occurrence, something inherent in any natural system and indeed a path to
truth if accepted and used. Basic principles of conflict resolution are set
forth, guided by an understanding of conflict as fuel for change.
Above all, the importance of questions is illuminated. "People do not grow by knowing all the answers; they grow by living with the questions and their
possibilities." The message inspires us to value our curiosity, intuition,
imagination, and ignorance as essential tools with which to see the possibility
of a world lean on rule, steadfast in personal commitment, and filled with
the courage to create artful and authentic lives, where all of us are relevant
and valued parts of the whole, where we can inspire others toward embracing
words like those of Mary Oliver:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world
offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh
and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of
Jane M. Silberstein
Ms Silberstein was for 15 years a city planner, first in Santa Barbara,
California, and then in Santa Cruz, California. Today she is the U.S. Coordinator
for the Lake Superior Binational Forum to protect and restore Lake Superior.
In addition, Ms Silberstein continues to work as a consultant in community
planning and development in northern Wisconsin.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: RETURNING HOME
CHAPTER 2: THE CONCEPT OF COMMUNITY
True Community Is Founded On A Sense Of Place, History, And Trust
Local Community Under Stress
Shades Of Community, A Lesson From Birds
The Existence Of Community Depends On How We Treat One Another
CHAPTER 3: RESOLVING CONFLICTS
Social/Environmental Sustainability And Conflict
Can Destructive Conflicts Be Resolved?
Resolving Destructive Environmental Conflict
Facilitation At The Crossroad
Compromise And The Point Of Balance
A Curriculum Of Compassion And Justice
CHAPTER 4: COMMUNICATION
Language As A Tool
Silence And The Need To Be Heard
The Basic Elements Of Communication
Barriers To Communication
Lack of a Common Experience or Frame of Reference
How One Approaches Life
Use of Abstractions
Inability to Transfer Experiences from One Situation to Another
Words and Language
Respect the Audience
Give the Audience Something to Grasp
Make Eye Contact
Accept Controversy as Part of Personal Growth and Thus of Democracy
Remember the Name of the Person to Whom You Are Introduced
Treat Everyone as Equals
CHAPTER 5: BEGINNING TO THINK ABOUT ECONOMICS AND SUSTAINABILITY
Understanding Some Economic Concepts
Supply-Side Technology versus Moderating Wasteful Consumption
Identifying Our World View
Two-Part Exercise in Logic
Economic Growth From The Planetary Scale To The Personal
CHAPTER 6: THE LANGUAGE OF COMMON ECONOMIC CONCEPTS
The General Role Of Semantics
The Tension Between Theory and Practice
Setting the Agenda
Rational Economic Man
The Invisible Hand
CHAPTER 7: DISTRIBUTION IS THE KEY TO ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY
An Economy In A Nutshell
The Disposition of Surplus
Empirical and Technical
Economic Culture: Connecting Theory and Practice
CHAPTER 8: HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE SOCIAL GLUE OF A COMMUNITY
Between People And The Environment
A Community and Its Landscape
Between People In The Present And Those Of The Future
CHAPTER 9: SOCIAL GOVERNANCE
Democracy As The Context For Social Relationships
The Role Of Democratic Government
Provide Exemplary Leadership
Improve Citizen Participation
Protect and Enhance People's Choices
Protect and Enhance the Freedom of Public Debate
Protect and Enhance Information Feedback Loops
Increase Local Adaptability
CHAPTER 10: A SHARED VISION: THE GATEWAY TO A COMMUNITY'S FUTURE
Through The Eyes Of An Insect
Questions We Need To Ask
Who Are We as a Culture?
What Legacy Do We Want to Leave Our Children?
Vision, Goals, And Objectives
Understanding a Vision, Goals, and Objectives
Crafting a Vision and Goals
Ask The Children
CHAPTER 11: PREPARING TO IMPLEMENT SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY
What Are Some Of The Questions That Need To Be Asked As We Prepare To Embark
On Our Journey Toward Sustainable Community Development?
What Sources Of Energy Are Available To Our Community?
What Social Capital Is Available Within Our Community?
Existing Human Talents, Skills, and Experience
How Can Specialties Be Sustainably Fit Into A General Community?
What Is Necessary To Build A Community In An Intelligent, Moral Way?
Community as an Intelligent, Moral Organization
Community Within a Sense of Place
When Is Enough, Enough?
Are The Consequences Of Our Decisions Reversible, And If So, To What
How Will The Things We Want To Introduce Into Our Community's Environment
Affect Its Future?
How Much Waste Can We Convert Into Food For Microorganisms?
Will Planning Benefit Us As A Community?
Why Monitor For Sustainability?
Summary and Conclusion
APPENDIX: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY RESOURCES (Return to Top of Page)
"The change represented by the divergence of humanity from the rest of the world is rapidly growing, and in need of transformation. Setting the Stage for Sustainable Community Development is a guide for that transformation, which can help to create a sense of 'place' where it did not previously exist. This book looks at resolving environmental conflicts through a 'transformative' rather than a 'problem-solving' approach. The transformative approach emphasizes the capacity of facilitation for personal growth. The text analyzes good and bad institutionalized social patterns in an ecological sense. The authors believe that through positive thinking and the willingness to take risks, we can become creative forces in our communities and in the world."
Robert M. Wilson
Manhattan KS, USA.
(Return to Top of Page)