As defined in our class reading, Introduction to Urban Sustainability Ch. 1, sustainability can be broken down into three different categories: Social, Environmental, and Economic. As a student at UIC and active member in the Pilsen community I have found several ways to contribute to each category. I would like to focus on the social spectrum as I feel this is often neglected in many discussions on sustainability. This topic is neglected because it is difficult to clearly define. Stephen McKenzie defines it through his research as follows: “a life-enhancing condition within communities, and a process within communities that can achieve that condition” (Pg. 12).
As a student I can closely relate to social sustainability as a process. As I began at UIC I looked for ways to meet my basic social needs. For me, this meant interacting with other students within my college, seeking out professors for insight on ways to develop as a student, and joining organizations that would help expand my profile and gain experience within my field of Urban Planning. As a whole I feel my actions have contributed to the social sustainability on campus because it forces an idea of collaboration. In a study of fundamental human motivations, it is said that “there is a need for frequent, affectively pleasant interactions and must take place in a context of temporally stable and enduring framework of affective concern for each other’s welfare” (Baumeister, Leary Pg. 1). When seeking out others and actively trying to get to know them, while being mindful of word choice and physical boundaries, I feel that humans gain a sense of community when simply taking the time to understand one another.
Ways in which I have negatively impacted the social sustainability at UIC may be using my headphones, riding my bike through campus in way that eliminates a chance of interacting with other students, and showing up just in time for class and not chatting with fellow classmates.