By integrating three basic elements—economic security, ecological integrity, and social equity—
“community sustainability” becomes a concept that is simultaneously scientific, economic, social, political,
psychological, ecological, ethical, and technical.These dimensions are interdependent and cannot be
understood in isolation. Community sustainability requires both wise stewardship in environmental
management and the ability to fulfill current basic human needs without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet the needs they will have.Thus, government cannot “regulate” sustainability
because it is not a project or program, but rather a process and a philosophy. Nonetheless, there is a
major role for the federal government to play. It can serve communities by providing the scientific tools
with which to measure sustainability and their progress towards sustainability, so that they are better
able to assess their own status and make their own decisions
1. Sustainable Community Integrity
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal
agencies should fund research identifying and documenting the
human elements that characterize sustainable communities.
2. Human-Nature Interactions
The NSF and other federal agencies should develop and fund
science programs that undertake research from an “ecosystem
approach” to identify the interactions of human settlements
and natural systems.
3. Establishing Community Measures of Success
The NSF and other federal agencies should design scientific
programs to collect data on projects that are intended to
promote community sustainability and develop a systematic
method for evaluating (measuring) these programs.
4. Information Delivery
The NSF, the Environmental Protection Agency and other
federal agencies should develop programs and projects that
will identify and implement mechanisms for translating scientific
knowledge and enhancing information delivery, to assist
decisionmakers and grassroots constituencies in identifying
policies and practices that promote sustainability.
5. Institutional Structures to Address Sustainability
The Federal Government should support research to determine
which institutional structures most effectively facilitate
utilization of scientific information on sustainability in policy
making at all levels of government.