Fundamental to achieving progress towards sustainability is an
economy that concentrates on well-being and quality of life for all.
Essentially, the economy should be regarded as being inextricably
linked to the livelihoods of its residents, rather than simply as
the production, consumption and possession of commodities.
The relationship between the economy, society and the environment
needs addressing with the recognition that one cannot exist
without the others.
Human life, activity and culture depend on their wider environment
(Davidson, 2000; Giddings et al., 2002).
At present most economic policy concentrates on the production
of greater wealth often measured in terms of monetary value.
This ignores the wealth created by the non-market economy of family
and community (the social capital) and prioritizes profit rather
than meeting the human needs through the production of goods
and services (Hutchinson et al., 2002).
From an ecological perspective it is also important that the
economy is local. If city economies do not connect with their
local region, it is inevitable that they will have ecological
footprints far greater than their area.
If there is much greater local sourcing of resources and materials
from within city regions rather than from undifferentiated global
markets and a dramatic reduction in the waste and pollution exports, then the
connections between cities and their surroundings will be strengthened.
As cities reclaim their clear and distinct character of dense activities, population
and connections, with a built form rooted in sociability and inclusion, this will aid the
countryside to re-establish its own identity.
If considered as city regions, cities can benefit their rural
hinterland through mutually beneficial exchanges.
While getting food, energy and water from their surroundings, they in turn
provide other vital components of sustainability including health services, festivals,
education and manufactured goods.
Often the best way to strengthen the centre of cities is to support the
existing local people, business, activities and culture.
They enhance the quality of the environment without gentrification, encourage
walking, support public places and buildings, and design for people.
While this may not appeal to the property developer, it is a necessary organic
step to re-connect
the city to its wider region in a durable and sustainable way,
while supporting the distinctiveness of places, rich in diversity
and activity ( Jacobs, 1994; Gratz and Mintz, 1998).
As Healey (1998) has pointed out, place does matter, contrary to
the claims of some neo-liberals and advocates of globalization.
Sense of place and community is the soul of the cities and the
principles of a renaissance of cities celebrate that experience.
Cities need their unique sense of being a distinct place, yet many
cities have had this undermined by urbanization and urban sprawl.
The distinction between city and countryside needs to be
redefined without returning to the simplicities of medieval walls.
While the countryside should be accessible to city residents, the
countryside should primarily be a place of work and life which
are connected to the landscape.
If rural dwellers are oriented to a city lifestyle based on car commuting, the
land becomes merely an object of consumption and the attractive nature of
the land is compromised with traffic, pollution and increased road infrastructure.