Chapter 4 - The Built Environment

Part 2 - Community Sustainability

At the global level, two trends are converging. On one hand, natural systems are deteriorating throughout the world. On the other hand, population and consumption are increasing. The majority of this population growth is in developing countries even though developed countries are the primary consumers of natural resources and global wealth. Twenty percent of the world’s population consumes 70 percent of its material resources and holds 80 percent of the world’s wealth. An average American has an ecological footprint of 24 acres versus the average world citizens’ footprint, which is 5.6 acres. As these two trends—rising population and consumption and declining natural systems—converge like two sides of a funnel, the margin for action diminishes.

We are on a trajectory of exponential population growth, overconsumption and environmental degradation that has severe negative and possibly irreversible effects. It is from this realization, that several communities around the world have initiated various sustainable community action agendas, projects, and plans to reorganize their cities and towns to reprioritize sustainable living practices, preserve their local environment and to sustain their health and social well being.


  • local society
  • local ecology
  • local solidarity
  • Agenda 21
  • urban sprawl
  • smart growth
  • land use planning
  • The Natural Step
  • mixed development

Suggested Reading

  1. University of Wisconsin Extension, Toward a Sustainable Community: A Toolkit for Local Government.