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Sustainability seminar lays the groundwork for The Natural Step



The Resort Municipality of Whistler and various early adopters of The Natural Step (TNS) sustainability plan made one thing clear during the course of an all-day seminar and workshop on Dec. 7: it is no longer a question of "if" environmental sustainability is in Whistler’s best interest, but how and when it should be implemented.

More than 200 people, representing business and government from Whistler and around B.C., attended the seminar, which was meant to introduce TNS and collect feedback from participants on how it could be introduced to and implemented in the general public.

"We were trying to get people motivated, and turning around and asking participants what they feel it would take to get other people motivated, and how they would like the program rolled out to them," says Mayor Hugh O’Reilly. "What’s the best way we can introduce this to make sure people are going to want to receive it."

After listening to various speakers, including TNS experts from Europe and representatives from organizations which have already adopted The Natural Step program, the 200 members were divided into groups and asked what it would take for them to buy in, and how they would package the program to sell to others.

The group of Whistler’s "Early Adopters", including the municipality, Whistler-Blackcomb, The Chateau Whistler, Tourism Whistler and Foto Source, will take those suggestions and try to work them into a package before TNS is introduced to the general Whistler public in March.

"We already have a number of initiatives underway," says O’Reilly. "There’s a video planned and some toolkits, we’re putting a common language together and a whole program and booklet so everyone is working from the same premises and understanding."

The Natural Step Program is the brainchild of Dr. Karl-Henrick Robert of Sweden, a leading cancer researcher who became concerned that the environment was continuing to deteriorate while scientists squabbled over the issues.

By doing extensive research and meeting with scientists, he produced a set of four basic system conditions that were incontrovertible, that all scientists agree with.

The first system condition is that substances from the earth’s crust – minerals, petroleum, and other materials – should not be extracted at a faster rate than they are replaced, otherwise they will accumulate as waste.

The second condition is that man-made substances should not be produced at a faster rate than they can be broken down. Otherwise they will accumulate and cause damage. This includes chemical compounds that are persistent, bio-accumulative and that aren’t easily broken down, like plastics, PCBs, and Freon.

The third condition is that we should not diminish the productivity or diversity of nature, harvesting our ecosystems at a faster rate than they can replenish themselves. This applies to fisheries, forestry, agriculture and society.

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