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Sustainable community development is the concept that planned communities can be designed that will preserve the environment and resources for future generations while giving members of the community equitable access to these resources. The idea of sustainable development evolved from the environmental movement that appeared in the latter half of the 20th century. Proponents of sustainable community development are concerned that the lifestyles of many people have been threatening the availability of resources and a healthy, clean environment for future generations. Many also object to the lavish lifestyles some people enjoy while so many live in poverty. They view sustainable community development as a way to equalize access to resources and to raise the living standards of those at the bottom of the economic scale.
Permaculture, or permanent agriculture, is an important element in sustainable community development. In permaculture, people work with nature instead of against it so that the land and resources will continue to be available for posterity. Permaculture includes animal husbandry as well as growing crops.
One common practice is to use mulch and compost on gardens. Mulching helps prevent weeds and retains moisture in the soil so that less watering is required. Adding compost to gardens amends soil with nutrients so that it will remain healthy and able to support future crops.
An ecovillage is an example of sustainable community development, and many have been developed around the world. These communities generally have several things in common, including alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, buildings designed to have small impact on the environment, and permaculture. In most ecovillages, families live in private dwellings, but all members of the community have access to communal buildings. The intention of the people who develop and live in ecovillages is to provide a community that takes care of the material and spiritual needs of its inhabitants, and to preserve the land so that it will continue to support a healthy lifestyle for future generations.
Planned communities exist today that incorporate a few aspects of sustainable community development. They don’t incorporate all of the practices of an ecovillage, but are designed so that it is possible for residents to access whatever they need nearby. Schools, medical facilities, and shopping centers are located within walking distance of residences. These communities attract people who like the convenience of having everything they need nearby, and those who want to reduce or eliminate their use of fossil fuels.