Social Equity is one element of the triad comprising Sustainable Development and is integral in creating sustainability; balancing economic, environmental and social equity.
A vital local community meets the needs of all of our citizens and provides good schools, affordable housing, and the basic services that enable even the least affluent to live comfortably. A healthy community fosters a wide sense of individual responsibility and participation. Interdependence of a community’s economy, social equities, and environment, where both the economy and the society exist within the environment, calls for an effective and coherent strategy to ensure that conservation does not accentuate or perpetuate existing social, economic and cultural inequities and inequalities.
The concept of social equity in conservation refers to the need for fair distribution of the benefits and costs of conservation among different social groups and individuals. It recognizes that social groups and individuals have different needs, interests, rights to and responsibilities over resources, and that they experience different impacts of development interventions which must be considered to build a solid social base for sustainability and socio-environmental security.
The big picture
In 1996 the President's Council on Sustainable Development defined Social Equity as "equal opportunity, in a safe and healthy environment. Social Equity implies fair access to livelihood, education, and resources; full participation in the political and cultural life of the Community; and self-determination in meeting Fundamental Needs.” Social Equity is the cornerstone of Social Capital. Increased equity promotes local economic sustainability by promoting diverse local economies that provide a wide range of employment opportunities for those of all ages and skills. Social Equity is enhanced by neighborhoods that offer a range of housing options, a mix of uses, and access to a variety of jobs, and are intergenerational and diverse.
The community of Old Saybrook while generally thought to be affluent is not immune to job, housing and other issues related to the state and national economic climate. Social capital is a crucial issue to be considered in a sustainable community. We need a diverse and inclusive opportunity for all citizens to work and live in our community.
Social Services is seeing an increase in families and individuals needing help. For the second year in a row we provided 26% more children with needed holiday gifts, referred 44% more children to Warm the Children for needed winter clothing, have taken 26% more applications for heating assistance. In that time we have seen an overall increase of nearly 300% in SNAP, food stamp assistance and referrals to the Soup Kitchen and 25%, or 1 out of every 4 elementary school students is on HUSKY, our state low income health insurance plan. Jobs continue to be lost and unemployment is running out without a job opportunity to replace it. Housing continues to be a concern both for those working on reduced hours and incomes or at low hourly wages and unable to find affordable rentals and for those newly unemployed or losing one or both incomes in a household putting the family home in danger of foreclosure.
Employment and housing opportunities for all with access to transportation, health care, education and food security; meeting the needs of a diverse and intergenerational community with a focus on sustainability so that our children inherit a thriving community in which they can continue to live, grow and prosper, is informed by including social equity as an important pillar of our plan for a sustainable community.