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Sustainability and The Natural Step

Presented by Amery Natural Step Group

Things are getting complicated for our planet and it’s billions of inhabitants

A new century has initiated a series of profound challenges for communities around the world

And that includes communities across the United States, like Amery

These challenges include:

Rising prices for energy

Safe food and water supplies

Economic uncertainty

Habitat loss and species extinction

Increasing incidences of disease, like cancer, asthma, and diabetes

Global climate change

Each of these is a profound challenge to a community’s ability to meet its needs

Whether a metropolis

Or just a small town

There is, however, a common response that deals with each challenge above, and holds true for large and small communities, whether in Africa, Asia or the United States.

That common response is
to “prepare for the future”  to preserve and protect one’s way of life  to ensure that tomorrow will always come for the generations that follow

That common human response is embodied in the word “sustainability.”

But, what is “sustainability?”
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Does it mean “getting by with less”? Sacrificing today’s lifestyle for the benefit of future generations? Giving up the activities we cherish? Learning to grow our own food? Living closer together?

need to think of sustainability as improving a community’s “resiliency” to potential social disruptions, like…  Interruption of our energy supply
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A widespread natural disaster, like drought, floods or climate change Economic breakdown Food shortages Cataclysmic environmental pollution or degradation

In short, sustainability is best thought of as:

preserving a community’s ability to meet its own needs with minimal dependence on outside sources of assistance.

Or, Self-sufficiency that protects and enhances a community’s unique assets and natural resources, while creating a diverse and vibrant local economy.

Why is sustainability important in a community like Amery?

Because when disasters strike, or social disruptions erupt, or fuel supplies are interrupted …

the impact will be felt most keenly at the local level, where people live, work and have their homes

In addition, protecting our natural environment—our water, our natural habitat and our farmland—is essential to our community’s overall health, whether physical, economic or spiritual

But, trying to understand what is “sustainable” and what is not often tangles people in a web of concepts and scientific arguments which confounds and confuses the issues.

Robert, a Swedish oncologist, developed a set of principles which he called “the natural step”, hoping they would greatly simplify the approach to understanding what is meant by sustainability.

The Natural Step Program

Reduce as much as possible dependence upon fossil fuels, underground metals and minerals. Reduce as much as possible dependence upon chemicals and unnatural substances. Reduce encroachment upon nature and its processes, in terms of air and water pollution, cutting trees, decreasing wilderness, etc. Meet human needs as fairly and

Simple in approach, the Natural Step has unending implications…
for the way we live our lives,  how we eat,  what we buy,  how we get around.

potential to change how a municipality conducts its business, plans the future and meets the needs of its citizens.

Towns and businesses in Sweden have adopted many changes as a result of studying the Natural Step Program, including:

Increased use of natural lighting in new construction and remodeling

Increased use of alternative energies, including wind, solar, and geo-thermal.

New transportation strategies that utilize nonmotorized technology, mass transit and pedestrian-friendly cities.

and handling refuse, including composting, recycling and burning garbage for electrical generation.

strategies, including increased insulation, better envelope sealing, increased efficiency in lighting and heating, and sharing energy and heat amongst neighboring buildings.

Strategies to grow more food organically at the local level to support both growers and consumers.

Planning for future growth and change in ways that maximize local producers of building materials and that minimize impacts on the environment and the waste stream.

Using a systems approach to analyze policy initiatives and local development in order to preserve local habitat and unique natural systems and features.

Amery’s first natural step?

Join with other communities across Wisconsin and declare itself an “eco-municipality”

An eco-municipality embraces the four principles of the natural step program and tries to implement them through…

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Municipal planning and zoning documents Departmental actions and policies Citizen forums, workshops and training City-wide envisioning process and actual development proposals

Where does this process begin? 

Through adoption of an ecomunicipality resolution and planning documents Through departmental discussions and facilitated meetings Through citizen forums and neighborhood workshops Through continuous discussion of how Amery can become more energy independent, ecologically aware and

In reality, it begins…

With vigorous, purposeful leadership

Directions for leadership
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Developing an overall plan Taking inventory of community assets Choosing a few specific projects to work on Building understanding and commitment among local citizens Spending real money, time and energy to bring pieces of the vision to life

On behalf of Amery Natural Step
We thank you for your time and commitment to making Amery a leader in protecting the environment, developing our own food and energy sources, and keeping Amery a vibrant, healthy place to raise a family.