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"Developing A Sustainable Cultural Model"...by Denise Scammon

The following is not my own--I wish it were! Denise Scammon elsewhere says that sustainability "focuses on meeting current human needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Traditionally, the sustainability paradigm encompasses the interactions between humans and the economic, social and environmental aspects of living. I believe adding culture to the already widely accepted three pillars of sustainability--social, environmental, and economic--is important for society to address because ...[it] creates a holistic approach to sustainability."


She goes on to say:


"Most communities tend to focus on the preservation of their own cultures first, and an established community may view newcomers who bring different cultural traditions and values as disrupting what seemed a cohesive and even sustainable local cultural paradigm.


“Yet this is an illusion. The world is in motion; change impacts us in here as well as out there, and before we can begin to talk about ‘cultural sustainability’ as an organic and collective global practice, we must first understand it as dynamic, and work to promote, communicate and practice this dynamic adaptation at the local level.


“But it can take just as much thoughtful and strategic planning to communicate and share ideas about a sustainable LOCAL cultural model as a global one. And it can be hard work to promote a sense of place and identity for everyone in a community--a sense of place that is both consistently flexible and welcoming, yet that thoughtfully--respectfully--adapts itself to the character of existing local cultures.


“But it is a goal worth striving for--if only because of the well-being that follows from communities and individuals--together--creating and enjoying social activities that promote and build a common cultural capital.


"Above all, we should be wary of aiming for a cultural sustainability that too heavily relies on tangibles over intangibles. Cultural capital does not merely inhere in things--objects--buildings--what we see and feel. Cultural sustainability arises from a holistic sense of place and identity, where intellectual and spiritual experiences and values are as important to a whole sense of well-being as heritage buildings and art." [italics added]


Freely adapted with permission from Denise Scammon: "Sustainability and Culture--How Do They Work Together?" (2012)




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