Social Sustainability and The Quality of Life

We are going to start going deeper into social sustainability by looking at the quality of life, concerning communities and population as a whole. Communities are made of environmental, economic and social systems that provide them with meaningful, healthy and productive life for the members of today and tomorrow. Although there are cultural aspects and facets that attribute different values to the quality of life, the basic ones are pretty much the same across the globe, such as; employability, housing, safety and a clean environment. 

Sustainability and quality of life have been evolving as a matter of study and research and being put under a magnifying glass, on the lookout for the connection between the two, and how one can support the other, or how the absence of one can actually become a serious obstacle for the other. Sustainability, as real needs, of  individuals and communities have across the world, and these should be integrated into any process that involves sustainability. Therefore sustainability can, and should, support people’s quality of life, and any developmental model, to be effective needs to integrate two elements. 1) culture, 2) territory, from macro to micro, as, let’s not forget, the goal of sustainability is that of satisfying the basic needs while having a good quality of life, without hampering the same opportunities for future generations. In order to work, sustainable social development, offers its set of values, on which good quality of life is grounded. 

Let’s, first of all, agree that as a whole sustainability is a concept drive by values, having as its core ideals, equity, choice, confidence and quality, which can be tackled from the environmental, economic, social and political perspectives, accompanied by a rather well affirmed truth that it is not an option but a necessity to ensure the survival of our species, planet and life; making of sustainable growth a shared social responsibility. That makes growth and development something that must be compatible with the needs and expectations of the people. 

Sustainable development concerns everything in today’s world and every aspect of life as we know it, and the common thread and connection are interventions in the sphere of culture and territory to positive impact the quality of life adjusted to the means for living of specific communities and their environments. 

Let us first agree on one thing, quality of life is impacted by the internal characteristics of the individual members of the community, and the external community and ecosystem where they life, which means that impacting the external there is an automatic effect on the quality of life, making this understanding not as relative and subjectively vague as one might think. 

Which means that whatever is being carried out in the field of development, be it social, economic, environmental or political, there is a need to be conscious of its positive impact on the quality of life, and to plan it, without leaving it to chance, and that is done by including the elements of culture and territory in any present and future model that will tackle social sustainability; because culture and territory are key factors in determining human behaviour.

The emphasis here is on social sustainable development focused on social and human dimensions, a more inclusive attitude towards ecology, and stronger interconnection with economic and environmental sustainability. 

To that we need to mention what are the four areas of the quality of life : Social, Material, Societal, Personal (self-realisation), which leads us to conclude that improving quality of life is something that needs to occur in education, justice, recreation and participation, as well as encompassing human rights, labour rights, corporate governance, which are now in the centre of debate concerning community and urban sustainability ideas generation. 

The goal of social sustainability is to ensure that future generations should have at least the same, if not greater opportunities and social resources than us, and that the present actions of our generation will not jeopardise theirs.  Quality of life can, and should, be maintained with a long term vision respectful and taking into consideration the social and cultural environment, as this determined how people feel about their lives, and influenced by the present situation as well as the future the community sees for themselves. 

Published by Lorenzo Nava

Consultant, Trainer and Coach, on participatory learning processes, experiential learning dynamics, non formal education and NLP certified practitioner

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