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Sustainable Community Development; Studies in Economic, Environmental, and Cultural Revitalization, Marie D. Hoff, Boca Raton: Lewis Publishers (1998), 264 pp., ISBN 1-57444-129-9

Book review
Sustainable Community Development; Studies in
Economic, Environmental, and Cultural
Revitalization, Marie D. Hoff, Boca Raton:
Lewis Publishers (1998), 264 pp., ISBN 1-57444-
There exists an extensive body of literature on
the theory of community-based economic devel-
opment. In contrast, in-depth analysis of success-
ful community-based economic revitalization and
development is sparse, even more, if we ask for an
integration of environmental aspects. Each chap-
ter in this anthology includes two major sections: a
narrative of the processes and strategies that led to
revitalization and an analysis of the strengths,
limitations, and replicability of their methods and
approaches. The book is targeted both to students
and to community development activists and
experts. The detailed presentation is very helpful
for understanding the actual contexts and activ-
ities that were undertaken.
In the introduction, Hoff discusses how local
people have begun to recognize that severe set-
backs or even collapse of their local economy is
strongly related to environmental problems *
either to the depletion of local resources or to
severe pollution and degradation of local ecosys-
tems. Luring a large corporation to offer new jobs
is not a realistic option for many communities and,
after consciousness-raising education, is often not
what members of the community regard as a
desirable route to economic well-being.
Although advocating local small-scale develop-
ment, the authors do not fall into the trap of
neglecting the importance of nested institutions
across administrative hierarchies. Most of the
chapters address the role of various agencies and
levels of government in the development process.
The chapters are organized in three sections:
sustainable rural,urban, and regional community
development cases, respectively.
A regional case that I find particularly interest-
ing concerns the Willapa Alliance in Washington
State. Being an economically poor region de-
pendent on extractive industries, the depletion
of natural resources in the 1970s caused eco-
nomic decline and social conflicts. The Alliance
was formed by two non-local environmental
organisations and it was fascinating to read
how they overcame the insinuations of ‘being
a tool of outside environmental interests.’ The
key for success has been the combination of
solid scientific inventories, with funds provided
by the external environmental organisations,
the emphasis on the intrinsic links between local
economic well-being and the health of local
ecosystems, collaboration with influential and
knowledgeable residents, and facilitated commu-
nity visioning seminars with diverse residential
In the conclusion, Hoff reviews common themes
and replicable strategies, acknowledging that
each setting has unique opportunities and there
is no standard recipe to follow. Having said that,
three ingredients are pointed out as essential:
leadership and determination of a core group of
people with a vision of how things could function
differently; the availability of financial support;
and understanding that plans for economic im-
provement must be integrated with plans for the
development of people and environmental protec-
tion, if the anticipated economic successes are to
be sustainable.
Not all chapters address and successfully inte-
grate environmental, social, and economic issues.
The analytical focus is clearly on social organisa-
Ecological Economics 44 (2003) 371 /372
0921-8009/02/$ - see front matter #2003 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.
tion, often assuming that ecosystems generally
behave smoothly but have been pushed away
from the harmonic equilibrium point by human
interference. The success of social responses to
environmental change can be increased if the non-
linearity and complexity of ecosystem change are
recognized and the question of how to enhance
ecosystem resilience is addressed. Still, I think the
book succeeds in conveying detailed experiences of
several aspects of sustainable community-based
economic development.
T. Hahn
Centre for Research on Natural Resources
and the Environment,
Stockholm University,
SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
E-mail address:
Book review372
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