The frenetic pace and physical isolation of contemporary life is making it difficult to sustain both the ongoing informal interactions and long-term formal organizations that sustain communities.
Residents of the Mattole watershed in northwestern California scrutinize an aerial photograph during a field trip to evaluate proposed new land-use regulations.
Community is the convivial, day-to-day gathering of people of all ages and kinds to maintain family and friendships; transact business; establish neighborhoods; and join in common purpose. It provides for several Fundamental Needs: participation, identity, a shared story, and Health. It is at the root of what it means to be human, and constitutes one of the most critical components of Society. It helps replace apparent needs for conspicuous consumption with the genuine benefits of solidarity and companionship.
When Compact Towns and Cities are woven together by Human-Scale Neighborhoods with a wide mix of uses, income levels, and Transit Access; which are walkable; and which offer many informal places to gather for conversation, community and will most often flourish. When neighborhoods are zoned for only one use, accommodate only one income level, and are dominated by cars, it is more difficult to sustain community. The physical design of places critically determines the degree and kind of community that will flourish.
Communities are the incubators for Cultural Diversity and Cultural Preservation. They allow people of many different races, faiths, and worldviews to enrich each other, providing an enduring sense of Security. Communities enhance Social Equity by providing a variety of safety nets — including religious organizations, neighborhood associations, and non-profit entities — that help marginalized people meet their needs.
Communities that engage in deep dialogue about their values and direction create significant Society. This cultivation of Civic Society reduces the kind of polarization that has recently characterized everything from natural resources to transportation planning. It also prepares the way for a Just Transitions to Reliable Prosperity that has widespread support and commitment.
Encourage human-scale neighborhoods that create opportunities for community and democracy through their physical design and mix of uses. Support community efforts to enhance social equity, celebrate cultural diversity, and create a sense of place. Build community capital over the long-term to aid in the just transition to reliable prosperity.