The Natural Step

What are the Natural Step System Conditions?

The Natural Step's principles of sustainability define the conditions that must be met in order to have a sustainable society. These four System Conditions are the core of the Natural Step's sustainability framework. Their precise wording reflects a system-level understanding of how the Earth functions.

The Four System Conditions of The Natural Step

In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing:

1. concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust,
2. concentrations of substances produced by society,
3. degradation by physical means and, in that society...
4. people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.

 

You can learn about The Natural Step by reading this book: The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices by Sarah James and Torbjorn Lahti.  This book is the focus of the Piscataqua Sustainability Initiative's basic study circle series of eight meetings.

If you would like a shorter reading to start with, the Primer is about 20 pages long, and the Summary is 4 pages long.

You can also learn more at these websites:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Natural_Step

http://www.thenaturalstep.org/

http://www.thenaturalstep.org/en/canada

http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC28/Robert.htm

http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC41/Hawken2.htm

http://www.naturalstepusa.org/natural-step-framework/

http://www.thenaturalstep.org/en/canada/applying-framework

http://www.biosphereinstitute.org/?q=p-natural-step

 

Excerpting from websites above, the TNS Framework includes these components:


System Conditions

The Natural Step's principles of sustainability define the conditions that must be met in order to have a sustainable society. These four System Conditions are the core of the Natural Step's sustainability framework. Their precise wording reflects a system-level understanding of how the Earth functions.

The Four System Conditions of The Natural Step

In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing:

1. concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust,
2. concentrations of substances produced by society,
3. degradation by physical means and, in that society...
4. people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.

 

The Funnel

The Natural Step uses the metaphor of a funnel to help us visualise the economic, social and environmental pressures that will inevitably impinge on society as natural resources continue to diminish and population grows.

 

Implementation Methodology: The ABCD Approach

(Back-casting is sometimes included in this approach, and sometimes listed as a 4th component.)

The System Conditions describe basic requirements that must be met in a sustainable society. The Natural Step has developed and tested an approach to help organizations incorporate sustainability into core strategies using the system conditions as helpful guidelines and measurements for successful actions. The four-step "A-B-C-D" process provides a systematic way of guiding this process:

(A)wareness: Understanding sustainability and the Framework as a shared mental model.
(B)aseline: An assessment of " today" is conducted by listing all current flows and practices that are contributions to violations of the four System Conditions, as well as considering all the assets that are in place to deal with the problems.
(C)ompelling Vision - Opportunities for Innovation: Possible solutions and innovations for the future are generated and listed by applying the constraints of the System Conditions to trigger creativity and scrutinize the suggested solutions.
(D)own to Action: Priorities from the Compelling Vision list are made, and smart early moves and concrete programs for change are launched.

 

 

 

Graphic by Bert Cohen 

Additional Info

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