This page is about communities of people, and focuses on the factors that create a sense of community, and build strong and well-connected communities. I see community as a key part of sustainability, as when people are not connected to each other, culture cannot be preserved (and sustained). I also think that the trust and cooperation integral in community is necessary to achieve sustainability.
The way I see it, an ideal community is one in which:
- People know a large portion of the people who live and work near them.
- People care about all others in the community, and act in ways that are respectful of others and good for the community as a whole.
- The community is welcoming and open to newcomers, and there are relatively straightforward ways for new people entering the community to become connected into the existing networks of people.
- The community has connections with the outside world. Some people in the community regularly travel to and interact with other, outside communities, and people from the outside world regularly visit the community and interact with it in some capacity.
- The political bodies shaping the community, whether government, businesses, or other organizations, have as their highest priority the protection of the community, including all of the features of the community described above.
Many communities in the U.S. lack some or all of these features; in fact, in many areas, it makes sense to say that there is little community or even no community. It is impossible to have community if no one knows each other, and nearly impossible if few people know each other. Unfortunately, this lack of connectedness is the norm in many apartment buildings and neighborhoods in the U.S.
But merely having a tight-knit community is not necessarily a good thing. Some communities are isolated and closed to outsiders. These communities tend to stagnate and degenerate; the stagnant culture and atmosphere in these communities makes them unattractive to live in for young people and intelligent, open-minded people, causing these areas to suffer brain drain.
Ways to Promote Community Through Personal Actions:
The best way to help promote strong and healthy communities is to think about community and make building community a priority in your life. Once you have set this priority, you will find numerous concrete ways in which you can help to build community:
- Reach out to your immediate neighbors, and put some energy and effort into getting to know them.
- Spend some time patronizing the businesses located closest to where you live, and consider participating in other institutions, such as churches or other religious organizations, or volunteering at charities in your area.
- Vote with your wallet -- spend your money at businesses that strengthen community, and when possible, avoid spending money at impersonal businesses that have no effect or a negative effect on the local community.
- Be cautious in your use of technology. Technology can help connect people, but if you are constantly "plugged in" you will be less able to connect with the people in close proximity to you.
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