Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Planetary Boundaries: How out of whack are we?

by Darcy Hitchcock

A group of scientists examined human flows from nature and identified 9 planetary boundaries. In the image below, the green zone is a safe level for humanity. The red represents our current performance. In some cases, we are far from a critical point and in others we are waaaaay over the line. With all the talk about climate change, you might be interested it's not the worst (although it is contributing to it.) This framework helps us to identify priorities for action.

Courtesy of the Stockholm Resilience Center

Here is a TedTalk about this framework:

For those of you interested in The Natural Step, you can see how these map to the four principles or 'system conditions.' Climate change is mostly System Condition 1 (from the earth's crust). Chemical pollution and ozone depletion is System Condition 2 (human made substances). Biodiversity loss is largely a System Condition 3 issue (undermining nature's productivity).

Link to original scientific article about the planetary boundaries.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How would you know if you were truly sustainable?

by Darcy Hitchcock

No question, there is a lot of activity around the Verde Valley regarding sustainability. What is missing is a scientific understanding of what full sustainability is. Otherwise, we risk being just 'less bad' instead of shooting for full sustainability.

The Natural Step, an international organization based in Sweden, worked with a broad range of scientists to develop four principles for a fully sustainable society. They started with fundamental laws of nature like the Laws of Thermodynamics and then ironically, imagined themselves to be an evil alien intent on ruining the planet. How would you go about it, understanding natural laws?

Image courtesy of The Natural Step
In a nutshell, you'd...

  1. Dig up or pump out elements that had been buried deep in the earth's crust for billions of years and spread it around the planet. (Eg, hydrocarbons, metals and minerals)
  2. Create synthetic chemicals like DDT that nature can't break down and spread that around.
  3. Undermine nature's ability to create life by over-harvesting, reducing genetic diversity and paving over paradise.
  4. Hurt people's ability to meet their own needs sustainably so they would go to war or be forced to over-harvest to survive.
Of course, we don't need an evil alien to do this. Humans have been doing this for years. We made four design mistakes in our society. Pretty much all the problems of the world can fit under these four mistakes.

These design mistakes got turned into 'system conditions' and principles. Once you understand these, you can assess the degree to which you are dependent upon breaking these and measure your progress toward achieving those principles. 

Here are a couple resources to help you understand these principles better.

"Sustainability Buzzwords"—Article on different frameworks and why The Natural Step is at the top

Friday, November 14, 2014

John Purkis from The Natural Step Canada consults with local leaders

John Purkis, center with Norris Peterson on his right
and Richard Sidy in foreground
On November 13 following the KSB speakers series, John Purkis stayed around to meet with invited local leaders, including one of our new Council members and the Mayor elect. We talked a lot about how to support and enhance the Sedona Community Plan.

1. Take on some of the community plan items that require planning or research
2. Use the Lab approach on issues that cross over geographical political boundaries
3. Create a larger strategy that embraces but goes beyond the community plan based on an understanding of The Natural Step Principles
4. Find an issue in the plan that the City isn't taking on and work that
5. Bring together business and non profits to develop our implementation plans based on the community plan.
6. Get involved in the City's citizen engagement process

7. Develop the system of indicators, metrics, targets and goals (with or without SEDI)