Backcasting from the future 

Karl-Henrik Robert on where Whistler is in the Natural Step and where it could be

Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert, founder of the Natural Step framework, was in Whistler last week to speak at the Leadership Through Innovation speaker series. Robert, who received the Blue Planet Prize, known as the Nobel Prize for the Environment, in 2000, is a global leader in sustainability. He talked with Pique editor Bob Barnett following his Whistler speech.

Pique: You spoke earlier this week about being encouraged by what Whistler has done with the Natural Step and sustainability. What’s so encouraging?

K-H R: It’s about social change, all of this, and the methodology of the Natural Step is very robust. It’s a scientifically and logically robust framework for planning that acts as a sort of language between people when they are thinking ahead toward sustainability and planning toward sustainability. So it’s good for community building as well.

And when I look at Whistler I would say that you are probably amongst the few top municipalities in the world when it comes to comprehending, to having the language, to run with a vision, and the community building aspect – having the mayor running it and having so many people who are really starting to be good at it.

So the dialogues I’ve been having here this week have been the most enlightening and comforting that I can almost remember. It’s been a wonderful time.

When it comes to concrete change there are a number of municipalities in Europe that are further ahead, for instance in Sweden, when it is about technical development. There are a number of municipalities that are almost entirely run on renewable energy, 90 per cent, even in the north of Sweden.

So that’s one point, but it is the community level (in Whistler) that makes me very intrigued.

Pique: Is Whistler’s situation comparable to what has been done by some of the corporations that have adopted the Natural Step?

K-H R: Yes it’s very similar actually. Large corporations are almost like countries or municipalities. It’s political, a lot of stuff in big companies. And very large investments are political as well, with shareholders and others you have to think about. So the similarities are profound. And the need to have a robust framework by which you can communicate is very essential.

But that is not instead of polarities. Polarities are good. That’s good for creativity and vitality, to have polarity. But we don’t need polarity that is based on misunderstandings and poor knowledge and sloppy restrictions of the system boundaries you are considering. Those kinds of polarities we can do without. And to that end the framework is excellent.


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