What is a sustainable community? Part 2

Jun 4, 2023 | News

What is a sustainable community
Part 2: Inclusion, diversity and belonging

Last month I used Sustainable Macleod as an example of an organisation seeking to assist the development of a sustainable community. In this article, I want to dig a little deeper, into what a sustainable community involves.

Broadly speaking, a sustainable community is one which considers both the short and long-term impacts of community decisions. It recognises the inter-dependence of the local economy, social needs and the environment. How this is expressed in detail will depend on the particular community.

Many of us are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, conceived as part of motivational theory in individual psychology. It is also a useful pointer to what needs to be taken into account in a sustainable community. Beginning with the most basic, physiological needs, such as air, water, food and shelter, it gradually progresses through more complex needs, including safety, love and belonging and esteem, with self-actualisation at the pinnacle.

This hierarchy gives us a useful gauge when considering the level of sustainability of a community. Beginning at the most essential level, does everyone in the community have access to clean air, water, shelter and food?

The Banyule Food Strategy, currently being developed with input from Sustainable Macleod, aims to ensure one of those basic needs at least – the availability of nutritious food. I will write more on this issue as the Strategy is developed.

As we work our way up the hierarchy, the needs become more complex, but no less important. Feeling safe and feeling we belong, the next two essential needs, have a huge impact on the quality of our lives. Belonging is essential to our psychological and physiological health. Without it, we cannot thrive.

To ensure everyone in the community can feel they belong, a sustainable community must also encourage diversity and acceptance. Acknowledging the range of opinions, beliefs and concerns held within the community is essential. Doing this adds to the richness and resilience of that community, just as a community of plants is more resilient when a diverse range of plants share a habitat.

It is heartening that Banyule City Council has adopted the Inclusive Banyule Plan, and an accompanying statement on inclusion and diversity, which is read out at meetings and events. As a sustainable community organisation, Sustainable Macleod can support the principles in this statement and help put them into action in our community. The statement reads:

Our community is made up of diverse cultures, beliefs, abilities, bodies, sexualities, ages and genders. We are committed to access, equity, participation and rights for everyone: principles which empower, foster harmony and increase the wellbeing of an inclusive community.

I would like to propose that Sustainable Macleod adopt a statement of principle similar to the one adopted by Banyule Council. I will put this to the membership during the course of this year.

Written by Paul Gale-Baker

Useful links

What is a sustainable community? Part 1

Institute for sustainable communities

Maslow’s Hierarchy

Making Sense of Belonging