We are what we measure.   It's time to measure what we want to be.

A better view of sustainable community

Rather than the three partially connected circles shown on the previous page, a better picture of a sustainable community is the circles within circles shown below:
A view of community as three concentric circles: the economy exists within society, and both the economy and society exist within the environment.

As this figure illustrates, the economy exists entirely within society, because all parts of the human economy require interaction among people. However, society is much more than just the economy. Friends and families, music and art, religion and ethics are important elements of society, but are not primarily based on exchanging goods and services.

Society, in turn, exists entirely within the environment. Our basic requirements -- air, food and water -- come from the environment, as do the energy and raw materials for housing, transportation and the products we depend on.

Finally, the environment surrounds society. At an earlier point in human history, the environment largely determined the shape of society. Today the opposite is true: human activity is reshaping the environment at an ever-increasing rate. The parts of the environment unaffected by human activity are getting smaller all the time. However, because people need food, water and air to survive, society can never be larger than the environment.

Sustainability requires managing all households -- individual, community, national, and global -- in ways that ensure that our economy and society can continue to exist without destroying the natural environment on which we all depend. Sustainable communities acknowledge that there are limits to the natural, social and built systems upon which we depend. Key questions asked in a sustainable community include: 'Are we using this resource faster than it can be renewed' and 'Are we enhancing the social and human capital upon which our community depends?

Sustainability is an issue for all communities, from small rural towns that are losing the natural environment upon which their jobs depend, to large metropolitan areas where crime and poverty are decreasing the quality of life. Indicators measure whether a community is getting better or worse at providing all its members with a productive, enjoyable life, both now and in the future. This web site is about ways to measure and strengthen a community's long-range economic, environmental and social sustainability.

If you want to know more about sustainability in general, you can follow the related links below.