We, as humans and residents of planet Earth are beginning to realize that the way to start addressing some of the problems facing us today is to approach them in a holistic manner, looking at all aspects and incorporating all areas possible. This is also true for solving many, if not all, the environmental crises that have arisen. We have realized that fragmented, individual approaches do not work. The individual cannot accomplish everything that needs to be completed. Together two can accomplish more than each could individually, but this is still not enough. So two join with two others, and they join with four others and so on. Working together allows for different perspectives, ideas, and abilities to all be directed toward the same final goal. Working together allows the group to collectively accomplish much more than would be possible with the same number of people working independently. This group is community.
There is no single version of sustainability, each community determines what is appropriate for them, meeting their needs, and consequentially working toward achieving goals. Sustainability is a process, not a state (Lerner, 1990). Sustainable progress, not perfection, is the goal of a healthy community. This process is attainable within the University of Waterloo community.
Measuring the success of sustainability efforts on campus will mean redefining perspectives of what a healthy, thriving and successful university community is. The traditional, quantitative systems analysis must be replaced by assessing quality of life. Economics will become only one part of the sustainability spectrum, and will be joined by human and ecological health, happiness and spirituality. Focusing on creating and establishing a healthy community on campus will allow for these new ideas and values to became a part of daily living.
In previous project endeavours here at the University of Waterloo, the topic of community has been greatly overlooked. Limited knowledge of the community's role in sustainability and, more specifically, here at the University of Waterloo makes it difficult to undertake a systems analysis of a community at this time. For this reason our project has taken a somewhat unique approach. This project explores the various elements of community and the means by which a community can become sustainable, providing a basis of information about community.
The goal of this project is to compile existing data regarding community and to determine what community is, define its elements and devise a preliminary way of determining its existence (check-list). It is the intention of this project that this check-list will be of use for individuals interested in identifying their level of community and improving their existing community.
A sustainable system is a healthy one. Health can only truly be achieved if one takes a holistic approach. That is, looking at it in more than one way in order to fully understand what comprises health and how best to achieve and maintain it. There are three components to a healthy, sustainable social system: economy, environment and community. We feel that the community component of the University of Waterloo campus is under-researched and is not fully recognized. In order to have a truly healthy and sustainable campus, the function of community must be better understood.
Community builds skills and abilities through the encouragement of leadership and responsibility. These become tools possessed by members of the community and are used in their daily living and interactions with other people. The leadership and responsibility instills a sense of belonging and builds respect among community members. In a sense, a transformation can occur within them, enabling them to better handle issues and conflicts. Continued use of these tools will benefit decision-making, resulting in better options and outcomes. This becomes a part of the larger picture when these decisions pertain to economic and/or environmental issues.
A community is more than just an aggregate of people (Brunk, 1996). Community is people who have come together to accomplish something as a group that none of them can accomplish individually. Members of a community usually, though not necessarily, share a common vision, goals, values, purpose and history. Through such sharing there emerges a shared attachment to place, enhancing community stewardship. The community system is an interrelation of mutual needs, both of the people and of the system itself. Members recognize that something beneficial for the community will improve the quality of life in the community, and will thus address their own needs. In other words, the betterment of community results in the betterment of self. Quality of life indicators encompass economic, social, environmental, aesthetic and institutional frameworks. It is recognized that communities do not function independently of the environment or the economy.
The initial goal of this project was to evaluate the role community played in sustainability at the University of Waterloo. After some initial searching we found that limited research has been done in the area of community and sustainability on university campuses, making it difficult to do the desired evaluation. In contrast, we found extensive research outside of the university, incorporating a variety of approaches to community including philosophical, political, socio-economic, and bioregional perspectives as well as current community initiatives. Therefore we changed the focus of our project to become an evaluation of the criteria for existence of community. We will explore the components of community as well as the relationship between community and sustainability. These community components include the areas of deep ecology, communitarianism, bioregionalism, current Healthy Communities initiatives and other existing studies. In order to find information about community and its relationship to sustainability we have conducted literature reviews of several books and articles as well as had personal interviews with faculty at the university who have some background in this area. The ultimate goal of our project is to compile a check-list, that would outline components that would foster community, especially one that is ecological aware and sustainable. The check-list is not meant to be a absolute definition of what makes a sustainable community, but rather a guide to help people build a sustainable community. We will also outline the relevance of the check-list and what groups can do once they evaluate the current state of their communities.
In this project we will do extensive research to define community and the role it plays in sustainability. Up until now, there has been very little attention paid to the role of community in relation to sustainability at Waterloo. There is no previous project that has defined community, or how to measure community. At the end of our project, we will come up with the elements and criteria that a sustainable community should most probably possess. We will include a check-list that contains the components of a healthy community at the final stage of our report. Hence, faculties or residences in the campus can use the check-list to evaluate their behaviour the influences the formation of community which may lead to improvements in sustainability on the campus.
The main focus of data collection will come from secondary sources. We will be compiling information through books, articles and government documents. The purpose of the literature review is to assist in the exploration of the relationship between community and sustainability. To gather a better understanding about the role of community at the University of Waterloo, we will conduct informal interviews with administrators, professors, and department heads (see contact list).
The individuals on this list have been contacted . They have given us many ideas on defining our project and several sources of information to research which were of great assistance to us in this endeavour. A special thanks to them all.
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