A community is an intricately connected web. Here is an example of a
web for a community that derives part of its support from a forest.
The forest provides materials for production, which allows people to
have jobs. Jobs help keep people out of poverty. Education
improves the skills of workers, further reducing poverty. There is
also a link between education and health. Crime can also affect
health. People with jobs may enjoy the forest and like hunting for
wildlife in the forest.
All these links are like connections in a complex piece of machinery.
Sustainability is about understanding the connections and figuring out
how to make the machinery run more smoothly. Alan AtKisson, one of the
founders of Sustainable Seattle, gives the analogy of using a monkey
wrench to adjust the system. He says that the idea is to figure out
where in the system a slight tweak with a monkey wrench will have the
most positive effect.
For example, crime is an issue in many communities, but solving crime
by hiring more police or building more jails may not do as much to
improve the sustainability of a community as using the monkey wrench
on the "education" or "jobs" parts of the system.
When you draw linkage pictures like this you want to try to identify
key linkages. This will help you when you are developing indicators
of sustainable communities. For example, for the issue of jobs,
although crime and deer population are connected, they are not key to
ensuring jobs. For jobs, education and materials for production are
(Note to instructor: This is a good place to do a short interactive
session on linkages as follows:
Pick one of the "quality of life" issues that were mentioned in the
warm up exercise by several different people and write it in the
center of a flip chart page.
Ask participants to name other
things on the list that are related to the issue.
item mentioned on the page and draw a line between each item and
everything else on the page to which it is connected.
Once you have at least ten items on the page, have the participants
identify the key linkages.)