Programme Theme

WCC Theme: “Think globally, act locally to become a sustainable community,”

The origin of the phrase “Think global, act local” has been attributed to Patrick Geddes, a Scottish biologist, sociologist, philanthropist and pioneering town planner.  In his 1915 book “Cities in Evolution”, Geddes maintained that ‘local character’ is not merely ‘old world quaintness’ but is attained only through an adequate grasp of the whole environment, and an active sympathy with the essential characteristic life of the place concerned.  He made significant contributions to the consideration of the whole environment (ecological, social, economical) in town planning … a visionary ahead of his time?

A century after Geddes’ ground-breaking work, the need to apply his insights into the organization, functioning and development of human society in the rapidly changing natural, social and economic environments has never been more urgent.

WCC’s theme for 2014 is aligned with this need.  Let’s briefly unpack the “sustainable community” term.

A sustainable community is one that is conscious of its environment and of changes that are occurring within that environment, and organises itself flexibly to:

  • manage and actively mitigate against harming the community’s environment, and
  • adapt proactively to changes in the environment that the community cannot manage.

The WCC’s theme is aimed at influencing the management those things in our environment that can be controlled locally (i.e. mitigation), and at planning and implementing measures to improve our ability to cope with changes in our environment that cannot be controlled locally (i.e. adaptation).  Combined, coordinated implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures will lead to increased community self-sufficiency and resilience in the face of global change; in other words, in a sustainable community.  Tackling this challenge requires a multidisciplinary team, hence the need for forming strong partnerships with civil society organisations, the municipality and governmental agencies.

Examples of mitigation measures include:

  • Management of biodiversity and preservation of ecosystem services (e.g. eradication of terrestrial and marine invasive alien plants and animals; prevention of development in ecologically sensitive areas; rehabilitation of wetlands; river and estuary ecological water reserve management, estuary mouth management, responsible fisheries stewardship);
  • Water security through elimination of water wastage and adoption of water-wise and conservation practices;
  • Minimising landfill use by reducing, reusing and recycling solid waste (e.g. banning plastic supermarket shopping bags) and recycling of all organic waste material;
  • Reducing use of land through compact urban development and containment of urban sprawl
  • Development of accessible public amenities and public transport;
  • Food security through urban agriculture;
  • Retention and enhancement of community wealth through development of locally owned businesses and creating local investment opportunities;

Examples of adaptive measures include:

  • Reducing reliance on and consumption of fossil fuel energy sources by installing solar and wind energy converters, using non-motorised and public transport, living closer to the workplace and essential amenities, etc;
  • Adopting solar-passive and weather-resilient building designs to adapt to warmer temperatures and increased weather extremes;
  • Adoption of coastal and water course development set-back lines that anticipate sea level rises and increased storm surges and deluge rainfall run-off;
  • Providing active support for local initiatives and businesses that create long-term employment and strengthen community self-sufficiency, in response to local population growth through in-migration and anticipation of increasing cost of importing goods and services from further afield.

Challenging stuff!! Member comment and participation in the development and implementation of the year’s plan will be welcomed.