Over the last few years, the concept of what determines a sustainable community has been discussed by many municipalities in Canada. From large cities such as Vancouver and Toronto to rural neighbours such as the County of Frontenac and the Township of Lanark Highlands, local leaders are thinking about the future that they want to see for themselves, their children and their grandchildren.
Our communities are striving for sustainable development – “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission, 1987). The Sustainable Kingston Plan has elected to use a four-pillar approach to sustainability. This approach is most clearly articulated in a sustainability tool known as the Melbourne Principles, which focuses equally on all four pillars.
Sustainable Kingston uses a four pillar approach to sustainability: cultural vitality, economic health, environmental responsibility and social equity.
Within each pillar, themes have been identified through consultation. Although themes are organized by pillars, it is the linkages and integration among themes and, ultimately, within pillars that will support Kingston in becoming more sustainable. As Sustainable Kingston is implemented and as Kingston becomes more sustainable, the emphasis on integration between the four pillars must increase; if successful, the pillar model may no longer serve the Plan. Our focus and intention, in Kingston, is to have a balanced integration and alignment of these pillars that affect our overall process to be a sustainable community.
While the economic, environmental, and social pillars have been well defined and documented in community sustainability planning, inclusion of the cultural pillar is a relatively new phenomenon is sustainable development. Kingston has included the cultura pillar because of the important role that culture plays in defining our attitudes, values, and behaviours. This four-pillar approach to sustainable development recognizes that a community's vitality and quality of life are closely related to the vitality and quality of its cultural engagement, expression, dialogue, and celebration. More and more, governments, business, and organizations are using the arts as a tool to foster social inclusion, cultural diversity, rural revitalization, public housing, health, ecological preservation, and sustainable development. Sustainable development increasingly involves creating cultural frameworks that operate at the same level as do econoic, social, and environmental models.
Sustainable Kingston is an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP). While it is convenient to organize sustainability in terms of the four pillars of cultural vitality, economic health and social equity, it is the integration between them that will drive sustainability, highlight opportunities for innovation and reduce duplication of efforts.
Ensuring the preservation of our environment and the responsible use of our natural resources are the right thing to do. Building the basis to enable social equity is good for all of us. Preserving and growing our cultural vitality contributes directly to the quality of life for all our citizens. Building our economic strength is necessary. We recognize that an integrated approach will bring forward differing opinions; but the recognition and resolution of these differences will result in decisions that contribute to a more sustainable community.