The four pillars include: Environmental Responsibility, Social Equity, Economic Health, and Cultural Vitality. While it is useful to organize sustainability in terms of these four pillars, it is the integration between them that will drive sustainability, highlight opportunities for innovation and reduce duplication of efforts.
ENVIRONMENTAL PILLAR: ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
The essential spirit of the Sustainable Kingston Plan is described by the American naturalist and preservationist John Muir: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
This quote has particular relevance for the environmental pillar, as all human activities have an impact on the environment. Conversely, the relative health of the environment will determine and will contribute to the nature and scale of activities in the other pillar areas of this plan: economic, cultural and social. While all of the pillars have the same standing in Sustainable Kingston, the environment does have a first principle position in that without a life‐sustaining environment, the other three pillars cease to exist.
Earlier in this plan, we noted some of the major global environmental challenges: climate change, dwindling nonrenewable resources, shrinking natural habitats, diminishing biodiversity, ocean acidification; and increasing human population pressures. Clearly, all of these issues have economic, social and cultural elements.
By acknowledging the prominence of the environmental pillar, we do not mean that the other pillars are less important. To the contrary, this prominence reinforces the need for an integrated approach to all of the themes in the Sustainable Kingston Plan. The foundational challenges and origins of sustainability may be environmental, but it will take a holistic approach engaging all pillars to deal with these challenges.
SOCIAL PILLAR: SOCIAL EQUITY
The Social Equity Pillar will help social agencies and residents to raise awareness about social needs and to engage both citizens and community partners to plan and act in response to these needs. The end result will be to improve the well-being of the whole community. Together, we will build social capital in the community between individuals and groups in order to enable collaborative action on projects of common interest.
Though Social Equity is often hard to quantify, measures which evaluate income, employment, literacy, access to housing and health care among many others, are both available and useful. There are several organizations within Kingston such as the Community Foundation, the Social Planning Council, the United Way and others that produce broad based reports which provide both general and detailed perspectives on social equity in Kingston.
With this, we stress the importance of personal and group well-being and security, including full access to effective health care, housing, food, and education services – these being the essential prerequisites for full participation in cultural, environmental, and economic activities.
Sustainable Kingston provides an opportunity to focus on the complex issues of quality of life and quality of place using the integrated four-pillar framework. Readers and users of this document are encouraged to make continual reference to all four sectors to underscore the synergies that underlie this whole effort.
ECONOMIC PILLAR: ECONOMIC HEALTH
Kingston is a city that is a vital, dynamic and sustainable economic centre where research, innovation, investment, and business enterprises thrive together and where a variety of people want to visit, live, work, and do business.
Developing an economy depends on building many relationships and partnerships with businesses, industry leaders, educational institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and the community at large. Our economy relies upon, and is built upon, a strong cultural, social, and environmental foundation.
We must continue to enhance quality of place and quality of life, to continue to attract and retain talented people and quality businesses. Our social values – as expressed by our educational opportunities, crime rate, levels of poverty, access to housing, doctors and daycare – should strive to make Kingston the most desirable location to live and work. Our environmental principles, along with associated activities, should set a world standard and make Kingston a place where people and businesses want to locate.
The Economic Pillar is focused on the attraction of new businesses and people to Kingston. This is critical to the city’s growth and sustainability and assists us in building a strong and vibrant local community. The retention of talented people in the public, private, and non‐profit sectors in Kingston are fundamental to achieving this. Existing businesses and the jobs they create, are critical components of a strong, sustainable economy.
Together we can achieve and be the difference that makes the difference.
CULTURAL PILLAR: CULTURAL VITALITY
The fundamental objective of any sustainable community is the promotion of human well‐being through enhancing both quality of life and quality of place. This is the focus of the Cultural Pillar.
To this end, the basic role of art, culture, and heritage has long been to bring beauty into our daily lives. But these also nurture individual and community identity, promote social cohesion, and contribute to the creation of “social capital.” Where social capital is strong, communities exhibit high rates of volunteerism and citizen involvement as well as greater inclusion of all sectors of society in the social and cultural fabric. Also, a community that is rich in social capital provides a wealth of intelligence, sensitivity, and wisdom that will underpin and support appropriate ecological, economic, and social sustainability strategies.
Further, such creative, vibrant, and resilient places are attractive to investors in industry, business, and tourism and thus create employment opportunities, expand the tax‐base, and generally add real wealth of the community. Thus, the Cultural Pillar demonstrates the core of the Four Pillars approach to sustainability: each pillar must not stand alone; all pillars must benefit from the strength of the others; and to do this, they must be bound together by a shared vision of what it is they are supporting.