Natural Step works for European hotel chain 

Whistler businesses are being encouraged to integrate philosophy into their organizations

In 1989, Karl-Henrick Robert took environmentalism to a higher level when he conceived of The Natural Step – a common sense approach to dealing with environmental issues for industry, governments and the public.

He compared the hundreds of debates being waged between scientists over every environmental issue to the chatter of monkeys amongst the leaves of a dying tree.

"We are confronted with a series of seemingly unrelated questions: Is the greenhouse effect really a threat, or will it actually prevent another ice age? Is economic growth harmful, or does it provide resources for healing the environment? Will the costs of phasing out non-renewable energy sources outweigh the benefits? Can communities, regions, or countries accomplish anything useful on their own, or must they wait for international agreements."

While the debates go on unproductively, the state of the environment gets worse and worse. "In the midst of all this chatter about the leaves very few of us have been paying attention to the environment’s trunks and branches. They are deteriorating as a result of processes about which there is little or no controversy; and the thousands of individual problems that are the subject of so much debate are, in fact, manifestations of systemic errors that are undermining the foundations of human society."

In other words, if we want to create an environmentally sustainable society, we should start with what we know. The obvious things. If a chemical is toxic and accumulates in the environment, for example, then it’s bad – there’s no real issue to debate, only an obvious course of action to commit to.

Through extensive research, Robert began to define a set of key environmental principles on which everyone could agree. The final product, The Natural Step, went through 21 different revisions in the process of achieving consensus among the world’s leading scientists.

In North America, 20 prominent scientists, including David Suzuki, have gotten behind The Natural Step program, endorsing it as a sensible route for governments and industry.

On the international stage, the Natural Step program has already been adopted by IKEA, Nike, Electrolux, Scandic Hotels and Interface.

Locally, it is being adopted by the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Tourism Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb, the Chateau Whistler Resort, and Foto Source.

During a Dec. 7 symposium at the Chateau Whistler, Natural Step advocates and Whistler businesses discussed the possibility of making Whistler the first North American community to fully adopt the program.

The Natural Step is based on four recommended system conditions:

First, that "Substances from the Earth’s crust must not systematically increase in nature" – fossil fuels, metals and other materials must not be extracted at a faster pace then they are redeposited into the Earth’s crust. Otherwise the spread of waste is inevitable and accumulation will cause irreversible changes. This means radically decreased mining and use of fossil fuels.

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