Humans are undeniably the most social creatures on the planet. The scale, complexity, and abundance of our varied communities are without equal, and our reliance on and affinity for the social groups to which we belong is extraordinary. Being involved in communities is a big part of what it means to be human.
I like to be involved in the communities to which I belong. I do not think that communities require dramatic participation from any one of their members. In fact, I have found that communities in which a small number of people provide the majority of all participation to be dysfunctional. What makes a community functional is the integrated incremental participation of all members, each doing what he can towards the common good. I have tried to make a contribution to all of the communities to which I belong.
I believe very strongly that consensus is at the heart of every community. Although the hierarchical nature of organizations and institutions often creates the opportunity to forward one’s own agenda via political maneuvering, I do not see this use of power as productive. For a short time those in power can coercively influence a community’s trajectory, but if a direction is forced, eventually the community will head back in the direction favored by the majority (or head nowhere if there is no consensus). So if you want to change the direction of your community, you need to build consensus. I try to work towards group consensus in all my community work, whether I am advising students on how to run their club, helping other ecologists come together around environmental justice issues, or representing my fellow faculty on a campus committee.
As a scholar and teacher, I belong to three communities. First and foremost I am a member of my campus community at Pratt Institute. I am also a member of the larger scientific community, specifically in the fields of ecology and evolution (although my interests often bleed past these categories). And, like us all, I am a member of the larger communities in which I live (Brooklyn, New York, the United States, and the world).
Here you can read about my involvement in the Pratt community, including my general involvement and specific work on curriculum and sustainability. You can also read about my participation in the scientific community, including attending meetings, serving as a peer reviewer, writing book reviews, and other volunteer work. I also describe my nascent work in community outreach.
The web provides easy access to members of various communities, so I have been slowly developing a collection of links to important web resources. And I make sure to acknowledge all the members of my communities past and present who have provided me with support.