Traditional forms of community engagement ignored sustainability unless they were directly concerned with environmental matters. Fortunately, community sustainability in the twenty-first century is becoming a central part of community development discourses given current concerns with environmental issues, (hu)man-made and natural disasters including climate change, environmental justice and the promotion of green social work (Dominelli, 2012b). Sustainability was defined in the Brundtland Report (1987) as having the capacity to meet today’s needs without jeopardising the capacity of future generations to meet theirs. This definition implies using resources wisely for current and future generations of people and is now supported by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 17 SDGs, all having to meet worthy aims such as ending poverty, hunger, gender discrimination and developing sustainable cities and environments. I have expanded the definition of sustainability to include all living things – animals and plants – and the physical environment in a holistic approach to social justice, structural inequalities, interdependency and connectedness in caring for and protecting planet earth indefinitely (Dominelli, 2012b). This chapter explores women’s actions in developing sustainable communities, the challenges they encounter in doing so, and women’s incorporation into traditional gender relations through social development initiatives. I examine instances of sustainable development that have attracted both intellectual and activist interest, such as the Sierra Nevada Alliance which seeks to protect communities, water, land, wildlife through conservation projects.
The 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment and 1980 World Conservation Strategy of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature separated development from the environment in taking these issues forward and gave rise to the Brundtland Commission on Sustainable Development (a term it coined) to unify the conservation of nature and the environment with intergenerational equity, gender equity and poverty alleviation.
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