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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Creating Sustainable Urban Communities

Sharon McCarthy.

What are the values that support sustainable urban lifestyles? This is the central question examined within the context of contributing to the larger questions of how we can create sustainable urban communities and why this is important.
The urban dimension of society is inextricably linked to the totality of a particular culture, which includes ideas about the political economy, the nature of society and how the settlement process should work. Values are embedded in this culture, along with beliefs and meanings that are widely held and that affect the way in which we have collectively organized our institutions and relations, past and present. Values arise from the processes of social life and the array of social interactions we have and are reflected in attitudes and beliefs that translate into actions and behaviors. As such, values form a critical component of any plan to create a sustainable urban community.
Questions about urban sustainability are ultimately questions about relationships between human communities and the community of nature that highlight the connection between values and actions. This presentation will focus on the different approaches taken to understanding the city and the role of cities in the organization of society, i.e., the elements of a city that define it as a distinctive mode of human group life. The concepts of value formation and value change will be introduced along with some of the key elements of sustainability and the kinds of values that support these elements.
Sustainability is broadly defined as the ability to live within the earth’s naturally restorative capacities in a manner that protects the long term health of human and ecological communities. The research is developed on the premise that sustainable urban lifestyles can be advanced by examining current societal values, with an eye to identifying and cultivating those that support sustainable practices, i.e., environmental protection, economic prosperity and social equity.


Sharon McCarthy  (Canada)
Graduate Student
Graduate Liberal Studies Program
Simon Fraser University

Sharon McCarthy is a graduate student in the Liberal Studies Program at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and a Masters in Environmental Studies. She has lectured in the Communications Program at Simon Fraser University and in Environmental Protection programs at local community colleges in Vancouver. The presentation proposal, Creating Sustainable Urban Communities, is a major project developed as part of the final requirements for a Masters in Liberal Studies.

  • Sustainable urban lifestyles
  • Urban sustainability
  • Cultural values
  • Values and actions
  • Value formation and value change

(30 min Conference Paper, English)