| Healthy and sustainable cities are important because of the role communities play in so many people’s lives, and the importance of having a home in today’s world. The recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg may have put the issue of Sustainable Development on the map, but it is still an undervalued and largely misunderstood concept. One explanation of Sustainable Development is provided by EarthYouth.net – an initiative of TakingITGlobal. It describes Sustainable Development as the ‘meeting of the needs of today without compromising those of tomorrow.’ While perhaps a vision for achieving an environmentally healthy and sustainable local town does not require such an expensive approach, much of what made the few successes of Johannesburg so significant is that the key to those successes are applicable in a smaller community as much as they are in the global community. The key: Vision.
Vision is a concept missing from today’s world. People like Martin Luther King jnr, Mandela, and Gandhi are all perfect examples of the awesome capability of humans. Nevertheless everything they achieved seems so remarkable in today’s context. We can never understand their ingenuity, or persistence, or their brilliance. But most of all we see them as people driven not by circumstance, but by an incomprehensible desire, fueled by a vision for a different world, one distant from all that made it so intolerable.
What can we do to achieve healthy and sustainable communities? Some would argue that better waste management and more competent and comprehensive recycling services would inevitably create a better environment. And despite the good in such initiatives; the problem of inadequate community awareness and a complete lack of effective education that promotes positive social and environmental change among young and old people alike is what will restrict a town or city becoming an environmentally stable community.
What is needed are programs supported by local authorities that reach schools within an area, impacting upon the perceptions of young people of all ages encouraging them to embrace taking action in the wider community and to be environmentally responsible. At the same time, these programs could effectively raise the awareness of the importance of sustainability. The lack of understanding of this issue is as evident in the world environmental political scene as it is among today’s ordinary population. Perhaps, as just part of the principle of inspiring vision and under the premise of ‘think global, act local’ a town or city could become a haven for environmental awareness.
Society’s perception is that the greater the education, the greater the opportunity – therefore increasing awareness of where this planet is heading and what can and must be done has to become a priority. Activists everywhere are calling for a world effort to alleviate human suffering, but at the same time are calling for an equally powerful effort to stop the environmental purge. If we dream of the world tomorrow, and then create a vision of how we actually want it – maybe you and your home town really can help save the world.
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