Published: 2005
Page Count: 239
Reviewed by    : TPr Dr. Alias Rameli (Research and Development Division, PLANMalaysia)

Many of our most critical global environmental issues are rooted in local, day-to-day problems. Atmospheric and potential climate change, for example, can be altered by local communities and government officials making enlightened decisions about local traffic congestion and inefficient land-use patterns. Local decisions about such issues benefit all of us globally.


While global environmental change is accelerating, there is a wealth of important and exciting information that can help us set the planet on a sustainable course. Unfortunately, most of this information is not readily available through the mainstream media. This book, Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments, has endeavoured to make these ideas, tools and resources accessible. It offers practical suggestions and innovative solutions to a range of common community problems on energy efficiency, transportation, land use, housing, waste reduction, recycling, air quality and governance.


The book, which is divided into 3 parts and 15 chapters, applies a new framework based on the concept of `community capital’ to understand city development as a process of developing and managing natural, social and economic capital. It opens up new horizons for practice and offers readers a compendium of practical cases, models and tools to indicate the way. Part 1 explores the meaning of sustainable development and its implications for communities, explains comprehensively the concept of `community capital’ and develops a framework for sustainable community development. It concludes with a chapter on thinking strategically, which explores the use of policy instruments in sustainable community planning and development, and reviews the different types of instruments that are available to community decision-makers.


Part 2 is a set of sustainable community “building blocks”. Each chapter provides an overview explaining the topic and its relevance to sustainable communities, followed by a set of “Tools and Initiatives” and “Resources.” These building blocks are a set of planning tools, practical initiatives, and associated resources that have helped citizens and their governments move toward sustainable communities. In detail, this part underlines the tools and initiatives for greening the city; saving and maximizing the use of water; reducing and recycling solid waste; reducing the consumption of energy; reducing the atmospheric change and air pollution; making transportation and traffic efficient; achieving sustainable land use; improving liveability and fostering community connection and neighbourliness; and implementing the concept of sustainable community economic development.


Part 3 focuses on mobilizing citizens and their governments toward sustainable communities. It discusses the aspects of governing sustainable communities by listing the ways to enhance the participation of the public (local community) and the roles of local government in the planning and development process. Tools for managing community sustainability from planning stage to assessment stage are also highlighted in this part. The final chapter shares some lessons for designing effective sustainable community development policies and explores the challenges ahead. In this chapter, the author states that the communities are coming to recognize their responsibility to develop sustainably. The author also highlights that the `community capital’ approach to sustainable community development requires some relatively new thinking about broad questions of community sustainability and self-reliance.


The book ends with addressing the key features, within the context of sustainable community, which should be recognized in formulating any sustainable development policy framework:

  1. Sustainable development requires sustainable communities; Rules can and must be changed;
  2. Sustainability can mean `less’ as well as `more’;
  3. Where the market works, use it;
  4. Where the market fails, don’t be afraid to mandate changes;
  5. Polluters should pay for the costs of remediation, but it is even more important to prevent pollution and the waste of resources in the first place;
  6. Social equity is not only desirable but essential; and
  7. Public participation is itself a sustainable development strategy.


This book can be considered as a comprehensive resource on creating sustainable communities. Though this book focuses on situations, experience and development frameworks in North America, the arguments and examples as well as the policy, initiatives and solutions suggested are seen suitable to be applied everywhere including in Malaysia. This book is an absolutely essential read for private and government town planners, local authority managers and administrators as well as citizens in helping to inspire us to do more in the journey toward sustainable communities and a liveable future.