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Roseland, Mark. Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, 1998 (240 pp.). This newly revised edition of Roselandís previous volume of nearly the same title provides many more resources for communities, especially since the advent of the Internet and the wealth of information one can find there. Toward Sustainable Communities would be an excellent beginnerís tool, since it clearly spells out the problems, both environmental and social, that communities are facing; provides ample case studies, mostly from North America; and lists hundreds of organizational and published resources (the bibliographies and resource sections alone are worth the price). The book provides direction, then, but it does not really follow through in step-by-step fashion, and thatís to be expected; this is a resource tool, not a detailed how-to guide. Roselandís principle argument is that sustainability Ė which is not just "preserving" but enhancing natural and social capital Ė is a local issue as much as it is a global one. The environmental challenges we face, for example (and he surveys them in detail) are as much a consequence of what individuals and local governments do, as they are the result of national policy. Essentially, what Roseland proposes is that we think about development differently Ė that we imagine success and happiness not in materialistic terms (which is the primary cause for North Americaís rapacious use of resources), but it terms of social well-being. Many arguments and dozens of solutions for affecting this paradigm shift are presented here. For example, Roseland reviews in detail the ways communities are not sustainable Ė waste and pollution, traffic patterns, poor energy use, despoiling open space, and much more; and then he provides alternatives to each problem, most taken from case studies, not just theory. Most importantly, he describes our unsustainable lifestyle as not merely an environmental challenge, but a social problem as well. Beyond that, what Roseland does very well is explain his alternatives in the language that elected officials and town managers understand Ė the language of economics. That is, he describes how shifting to a more sustainable approach to waste management, for example, results in savings for the town and its taxpayers. Almost all of his appeals highlight the economic argument, which is perhaps the only way they will receive an airing in some communities. Sometimes the book feels a bit disjointed or lopsided, as Roseland moves back and forth between philosophical and social theory and the nuts and bolts of building an effective disposal treatment plant, for example (some of that may be due to the multiple authors who assisted, which he acknowledges upfront). Another positive is that throughout the book, and in entire chapters, he stresses the need for community involvement Ė civic engagement. Roseland knows the reason we continue to pursue less sustainable policies, like little or no recycling, is because the waste disposal lobby is strong, well-funded, and a major player at most local and state levels. And thatís the case with many of his proposals. One might ask, if indeed the sustainable approach is also the economic approach, why do we continue along the more destructive course? Hereís where the book is less useful; although Roseland understands that a social and political shift is required, simply saying citizens should get involve will not, by itself, involve them, and without citizen pressure itís doubtful policies will change. Thatís the "Bowling Alone" problem many places face; for example, nearly everyone knows big-box retailers are not good for the overall local economy, yet city councils continue to invite them into town and people continue to shop there. The "facts" are on the side of a more sustainable approach, as Roselandís book demonstrates, so why donít cities heed them? Why arenít citizens convinced by the arguments? Here Toward Sustainable Communities falls a little short, because it fails to present a compelling argument as to why citizens should care; and without that commitment, without that public concern, progress will be slow, if at all. The facts, the numbers, and the verifiable proof, all of which this book presents clearly, by themselves donít seem to move people, since few of us connect our individual actions to the larger picture. Of course, this is true of much sustainability literature, which often presents a compelling and fact-based argument, but which has done little to alter policies or change the publicís habits. At the conclusion of his book, published in 1998, Roseland expresses some doubt that the good sustainable projects that have taken root have had any real influence; one can only imagine what he would say today! Still, if your community knows it must change course, knows you need new tools to face the future and arguments to support your cause, knows you could be operating both more economically and more justly, then this book is an excellent place to start.


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