Friday, November 28, 2008

The Natural Step Framework

In March I will be going to Sweden to study eco-communities and Sweden's approach to sustainability. One big contribution we'll be learning about is the Natural Step process. The framework of the Natural Step is broken into four basic concepts.

1. In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust. Matter cannot be created nor destroyed, meaning that we cannot completely get rid of anything mined from the earth, and chemicals and toxins we create from earth's minerals do not simply disappear over time. Anything we bring into our atmosphere is forever ours.

2. In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to the systematically increasing concentrations of substances produced by society. We are creating synthetic substances much faster than they can be broken down. Of the over 70,000 chemicals not commonly used*, many do not break down easily and can move easily into other ecosystems. Some chemicals are known to cause cancers, interfere with brain development, and are increasingly found in many species of animals, including humans.

3. In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing degradation by physical means.
Natural systems, such as land, water, forests, soil, ecosystem, not only provide us with places of recreation and peace, but are also our life-support systems for oxygen, water, food, and carbon sequestration. Human activity is currently breaking down natural systems faster than they can replenish themselves.

4. In the sustainable society, people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.
In order for sustainability to succeed, the basic human needs of air, water, food, and shelter need to be satisfied first.

Movement toward any one of these goals is good, but the most sustainable projects are ones that strive to achieve the four conditions simultaneously. The Natural Step outlines four guiding objectives that stem from these conditions that can help communities obtain these goals successfully.

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