Visioning: Sustainability and Community Planning

Any exercise to envision the future, is well served by clearly identifying what is possible and desirable.

It is widely accepted that we must provide for our needs in a manner that does not diminish the ability of future generations to provide for their needs. Clear understanding of what serves this goal and what inhibits it is important. There is no point in planning and developing our communities only to find after some years that we are making some problems worse and must start planning all over again.

What it takes to sustain our communities is much debated. The following guidelines are offered here as a reference for anchoring this critical debate and pushing it toward resolution. They were derived from an inventory of the possibilities and limitations as seen by volunteers and non-profit groups.


#1 Use materials in continuous cycles.
#2 Use continuously reliable sources of energy.
#3 Come mainly from the qualities of being human (i.e. creativity, communication, coordination, appreciation, and spiritual and intellectual development.)


#4 Require continual inputs of non-renewable resources.
#5 Use renewable resources faster than their rate of renewal.
#6 Cause cumulative degradation of the environment.
#7 Require resources in quantities that undermine other people's well-being.
#8 Lead to the extinction of other life forms. Using these points as a reference, we can ask?
    • Is this what we mean by sustainability?
    • If it is not, upon what point or points do we disagree?
    • For what reasons?
    • Is there anything missing?
Some say the word sustainability has been discredited by spin doctors working for vested interests. We need only witness how the people with such interests avoid these basic questions to see the advantage of claiming sustainability as a popular goal.

Only good can come from pointing out and discussing mistakes and omissions in the guidelines above. If, however, they stand to reason, should we not be up front about what must be accomplished in the next generation or so?

Watch out!

The implications are extensive and can be overwhelming.

In the words of psychologist, Daniel Goleman:
"There is an almost gravitational pull toward putting out of mind unpleasant facts . . .
We tune out, we turn away, we avoid. Finally we forget, and we forget we have forgotten."
It's easily done, it's human nature and in many instances it is a useful survival trait as it enables us to act in circumstances which might otherwise be paralyzing. It is not, however, appropriate to approach the planning process in a state of denial.

Like the shield of Perseus, the planning process enables us to deal with problems before their full impact renders us immobile. Perseus had to face Medusa, a creature so horrible that any who looked at her directly turned to stone. By looking only at her reflection in his shield, Perseus was able to slay Medusa and release the local community from its long-term problem.

The planning process, enables us to recognize long-term problems and make plans for dealing with them before our vision is clouded by denial and vested interest.

We humans are remarkably capable. If we can get the challenge right, then our collective understanding, skills, ingenuity, and resources could lay the ground work for communities that will serve the interests of the next seven generations and beyond. Any community which does so in full recognition of what long-term tenure on Earth requires will create a symbol of hope that could be felt around the world.

More detail is available in Life Based Purpose; A Solution and Let's Talk About Sustainability