Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Systems analysis of our impacts

After using The Natural Step's system conditions to identify negative environmental and social impacts in our area, we analyzed the relationship between our community systems (eg, energy, governance, housing, water) and the negative impacts. While we were looking at the greater Sedona area, we took responsibility not only for our direct actions (like using energy or water) as well as the life cycle impacts of major purchases; so for example, we assumed we should take responsibility for the impacts elsewhere of the food we buy and use here.

The biggest drivers of impacts

As a result of this analysis, we found the community systems responsible for most of the impacts were in order of impact (based on the number of times the system was found to be a major driver of impacts):

  • Lifestyle (eg, part time residents; choices about size of home, energy, water, landscaping, etc.) (11)
  • Housing (the efficiency of the housing stock as well as location) (9)
  • Food (impacts associated with ag and grazing) (8)
  • Water (sourcing, use and pollution) (7)
  • Waste (solid waste and waste water, absence of household hazardous waste disposal options) (6)

The biggest social/environmental impacts our area contributes to are:

  • Climate change (9)
  • Water (5)
  • Citizenship (lack of involvement and participation of citizens in local governance) (5)
  • Plastics (largely driven by food) (4)
  • Farmland (includes soil depletion, pesticides, reduction of native plants and animals) (4)
  • Economic based (currently tied to tourism and construction) (4)
We are trying to show those relationships visually. Here is a DRAFT. Note how the Community Systems themselves impact one another.

These community systems and impacts have reinforcing loops which can set up 'death spirals.' So our next step is to identify how these impacts (which have momentum; they will continue for some time) will come back to affect our community systems. This systems analysis will help us identify the highest leverage actions we can take in concert to move toward a sustainable community.

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