Community: reUtica style

reUtica focused on a number of strategies that could build our community while protecting our environment. The idea is that sustainability doesn’t have to be just environmental or economic – we can reap social benefits alongside environmental benefits. (This author believes that sustainability is inherently social anyway, but I’ll leave that for another post.)

Knowing about strategies is helpful when moving towards a goal. But what about the goal itself? I starting thinking about what would motivate people to invest in the reUtica strategies. And it goes a little something like this:

So community can be thought of as a relationship between individuals and a larger group.  The individual has wants and needs – as well as contributions to offer.  Same with the community.  Every community needs something and gives something.

Now consider this: Is more focus placed on one side of the street than the other?  I think so.  Given the way conventional economic development happens, the focus is placed on what the individual wants and what the community can provide.  Just check out advertisements for neighborhood developments.  (Like this one:  I just love the tagline at the end of the description – “Experience all it has to offer.”)

Welcome to another shade of consumerism:  the consumption of place.  In my mind, ‘place’ is not a commodity that individuals can purchase to ‘experience’, use up and move on.  Granted, we all have things we need from a place:  water, shelter, safety, fun, etc.  But is that all there is?

What about ‘place’ as a home?  A home where we can develop into active participants that make a meaningful contribution to schools, libraries, parks, hospitals, government and our families and friends.  The diagram below describes the problem as I see it:

What would things in Utica look like if we placed more emphasis on the relationship in the green boxes?  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we should totally ignore the relationship in the white boxes.  What I am saying is that we need to consider our contributions to the community on equal footing with the community’s contributions to us.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to explore this theme a bit further and the reUtica project will be entering a new phase.  Stay tuned…

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