The Natural Step

Lawrence F. London, Jr. london at metalab.unc.edu
Sat Sep 4 12:01:16 EDT 1999


This should interest you all. Anyone ever heard of/know anything about 
The Natural Step; do they endorse or interact with the Permaculture
movement?  LL

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 1999 16:35:47 -0400
From: Kimberly Stoner <kstoner at caes.state.ct.us>

At the Northeast Organic Farming Association regional conference this
summer, there was a day-long workshop on the possibility of applying The
Natural Step to agriculture in the U.S.  I know there was a post about The
Natural Step and Swedish agriculture on Sanet last spring, but it didn't
make much impression on me at the time.  After hearing a Swedish organic
farmer (and president of the organic farming organization in Sweden) talk
about how this movement has transformed the thinking about natural
resources, energy, and environment in Sweden, I think The Natural Step
deserves another look from the sustainable agriculture community here.

I bring it up here, because it represents an attempt to bring a scientific
standard to sustainability.  According to the information in the workshop,
at least, there has been extensive scientific review of the orginal
documents.  At the same time, the basis has been framed in terms that, while
setting a very high standard, also make common sense.

My information is at home, but here are the "Four Conditions" as far as I
remember them:
1.  Substances extracted from the earth's crust (e.g. fossil fuels, metals,
other minerals) should not be extracted, dispersed, or used up at a faster
rate than they are being deposited.
2.  Man-made substances should not be produced at a rate faster than they
can be broken down and incorporated into living ecosystems.
3. The quality of existing ecosystems should not be systematically degraded.
4.  Existing resources should be used as efficiently and equitably as
possible.

I am sure that these are not the exact words, but I think they convey the
basic ideas.  The consideration of social systems, Hal, is limited to the
word "equitably" (which may not even be the right word) in the last
condition.  In the workshop I attended, considerable time was spent
emphasizing the fair and equitable distribution of resources.

As I am sure you can imagine, the devil is in the details, but even the
Swedish organic farmer felt that this is very challenging, but ultimately
necessary standard to reach.

Maybe I can write more, and more accurately, next week.  I am out of time
today.

Kim Stoner


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