April 04, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

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Defining nature

What is Whistler. It’s Our Nature ?

Whistler. It’s Our Nature is a community program to promote and support a sustainable Whistler. This program encourages businesses, households and other organizations to practice sustainability, including using The Natural Step Framework as their "sustainability compass." (www.whistleritsournature.ca)

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability means meeting the needs of global society indefinitely. Since meeting human needs depends on natural processes, sustainability also means maintaining life-supporting ecological processes, such as capturing energy from the sun by photosynthesis and purification of air and water.

Sustainability for Whistler and other communities means maintaining opportunities for future generations and not diminishing our economic, social and environmental capital – "harvesting the apples but not the tree."

What is the Natural Step?

This framework brings together society’s needs with nature’s requirements. It is based on four system conditions derived from the laws of thermodynamics and natural cycles, is a household word in Sweden today, and has been transforming the way individuals, schools, communities and businesses think about the natural world and sustainability. More than 70 Swedish municipalities have adopted the framework and 60 corporations, including Ikea, Electrolux, Sweden’s McDonald’s, Scandic Hotels, and Nike are using The Natural Step framework to change the way they do business.

The Natural Step Framework is a system consisting of four components:

1) A shared understanding of why sustainability matters to society;

2) The four System Conditions for sustainability, discussed below.

3) A visioning process that enables a community or organization to picture how they would operate in a sustainable society, so that they can back cast to today, to identify opportunities and vulnerabilities; and

4) An analysis of current practices compared with sustainability, to determine what needs to be accomplished, to develop targets, to institute step-by-step procedures and to measure results.

What are The Natural Step System Conditions?

These are the four system conditions based on scientific laws of thermodynamics and principles of natural cycles that must be met in order for society to be sustainable. The System Conditions can be thought of as the minimum requirements for sustainability.

In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the earth's crust, increasing concentrations of substances produced by society, increasing degradation by physical means, and in that society, human needs are met worldwide.

The above definitions are taken from the Whistler. It’s Our Nature Household Toolkit, Whistler Centre for Sustainability

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