Social Ecology in the Digital Age: Chapter 8 - Designing Resilient and Sustainable Communities

Elsevier, Social Ecology in the Digital Age, 2018, Pages 265-317
Daniel Stokols

This chapter identifies strategies for improving the design and sustainability of built environments. Resilience and sustainability are viewed at different scales as they apply to buildings, neighborhoods, communities, regional, and global ecosystems. Resilience is a system's capacity to absorb disturbance while maintaining its essential functions and structure intact, whereas sustainability is its ability to meet current demands without sacrificing its potential to satisfy future needs. Research and policy initiatives to promote sustainable development including the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment are described. The UN SDGs underscore the importance of balancing economic development with other needs, e.g., conserving natural resources, minimizing pollution, and ensuring social inclusion and equitable governance. The chapter outlines planning and design guidelines for creating sustainable communities such as incorporating abundant greenery into urban areas, engaging citizens in environmental stewardship, and encouraging non-motorized transit (e.g., biking, walking). These strategies reduce environmental costs of buildings and urban infrastructures, promote social cohesion, and strengthen the psychological resilience and physical health of community members. The chapter also considers behavioral and educational initiatives to promote environmentally supportive values and lifestyles among individuals and groups—crucial prerequisites for ensuring societal and global sustainability.