Have you wonder how self-sufficient and sustainable is our community?
For a long time I have been saying no, we are not !
Let me share an unsophisticated, non-scientific exercise to make my point. Ranking Sustainability and self-sufficiency in a small community
by norberto rodriguez dela vega
The idea that all small, rural communities are sustainable, resilient and self-sufficient is not necessarily true.
Let me present the case of a few small communities in the West Coast of B.C., mainly in the Gulf Islands. I will rate the sustainability level of these communities using a simple exercise.
I will use the conventional categories Social, Economic and Ecological to group all the issues and opportunities.
For the Social
component I will include food security, fresh water, health and education facilities, housing for all, waste and transportation. Maybe this is the weakest area of all for these islands, since we import the majority of our food; our fresh, underground water is limited; our health and education facilities are very limited; affordable housing is an never-ending issue; we export all our waste; public transportation is non-existent and the chances to have any is almost null, since our populations are so small that we don’t qualify for any provincial help in that area.
This means we are highly dependent on importing goods and services. At the same time, young families need to move to larger cities for higher grades of education for their children, and Seniors need to travel or move for medical reasons and other facilities and services lacking in the small islands.
The biggest concern is that many of these elements may be considered as "basic needs for survival".
On the other hand, we can also include in the Social area a very important component I like to call "the caring component".
These are things like community spirit, spiritual and cultural feelings, sharing things and helping each other. Without a doubt, we are very strong in these matters.
component is also weak for these communities, since local industries and job opportunities are quite limited. The biggest industries are aquaculture and tourism. Forestry used to be very important, but it has decreased tremendously in the past few years. The problems with tourism are that it is not a year-round business and it causes some distress in many of these small communities during its peak Summer season.
The strongest economic component for these small islands may be the unpaid, or underground, local economy, mainly in the form of trading and volunteerism.
It is obvious the Ecological
category is fairly well covered in these islands: we care a lot about Nature; we respect and try to protect the forest lands, ecosystems and other species; we have a fairly decent understanding of our inter-dependencies with Nature, and overall, those who live in these islands in a permanent basis try to have a small footprint.
However, if we also include the impacts of climate change in this category, the situation is a bit different, since we have a large carbon footprint as we produce lots of greenhouse gas emissions driving our cars and trucks everywhere; the lack of public transit; our ferries; the very large food-mileage of our food, and yes, many of us fly to warmer places in Winter.
Therefore, if want to grade the above components we may end with something like this:
For the Social component
we get the following grades:
- Food security we get a D;
- Fresh water we get a C minus;
- Health and Education we get a C;
- Housing we get a B minus;
- Waste management we get a D;
- and for Transportation we get an F.
However, for Caring we get an A plus.
For the Economic component
- Industries and Jobs, we get a C;
- Underground we get a B.
For the Ecological component
- Nature we get an A;
- Climate Change we get a D.
This doesn’t look that good, does it? Overall, we have a failing grade and we can conclude these islands are not sustainable, not self-sufficient. At the same time, we can say we are Caring Communities
Even if we want, there are physical limitations in these islands; there is no proper infrastructure for things like education, health and public transportation, and probably never will.
However, it is possible to work towards improving areas like Food Security by growing year-round food, to create alternative housing opportunities and to diversify our local industries and reduce our carbon footprint. At the least, the above efforts will help to improve our resilience level
Most of all, we need to understand and accept this truth, we need to recognize the need and urgency for change, and we need to start taking action… yesterday! Originally pubished at http://resiliencejournal.blogspot.com/2009/09/ranking-sustainability-in-small.htmlBottom line:
we have to recognize that are not
a sustainable community, nor
a self-sufficient community. However, we are a caring community