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Waldron to work with Robert

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Whistler local develops The Natural Step masters program in Sweden

He calls it "serendipity."

For most of the past two years Dave Waldron has been developing sustainability initiatives in Whistler that fall in line with The Natural Step Framework. In two months he will be in Sweden working with Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert, the physician who envisioned and created that framework.

Waldron has accepted a five-year contract at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in the south of Sweden where he will help create an international masters program designed around The Natural Step Framework.

"It’s a privilege to work with him," said Waldron.

"I’ve been following his work for a few years now."

Waldron first met Robert in 2000 when the professor presented his ideas of sustainability to the Whistler community. At the time Waldron was working on Whistler’s Environmental Strategy.

"For me (the ideas around sustainability) weren’t so new but it was the way he put it altogether and the way we could relate to it," he said.

"The beauty of it is the simplicity of the approach without losing the meaning.

"He has been able to accomplish that with his framework."

The Natural Step program is a science-based system framework to help organizations and communities move toward sustainability.

The one-year masters program, which will be up and running by next fall, is designed to immerse students in the fundamentals of The Natural Step Framework. Once the fundamentals are understood they can then study ways to move towards sustainability through action.

At its most basic level The Natural Step begins with a future in mind. It projects a future that is sustainable. Then it recognizes there are certain actions to take to move towards that sustainable future.

"We’ll use that as a compass all the way through the program," said Waldron.

"The whole point of getting the fundamentals right is so they can apply it to everything."

He sees students coming from all kinds of backgrounds, including managers of companies who want to get grounded in the concepts before applying them to their organizations.

Robert’s presentation in Whistler brought together a group of Early Adopters, made up of Whistler-Blackcomb, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, RMOW, Tourism Whistler, Whistler’s Fotosource and the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment. The Early Adopters envisioned Whistler as the first municipality in North America to adopt the Natural Step on a community-wide basis.

The resort has since become one of the many companies and governments embracing the principles that Robert developed almost 15 years ago.

Waldron said the masters program is another way to get the concept out there.

"(The Natural Step) is posed to go to the next level in terms of people’s awareness," he said, adding that he hopes the program will entice students from all over the world in various positions.

"This is part of the global awareness."

Located on the southeast coast of Sweden on a archipelago, Karlskona is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its well-preserved naval port.

Waldron said he has mixed feeling about his adventure.

"It’s exciting to be doing something new and different," he said.

"On the other hand there’s lots of new and exciting things to do in Whistler."

He leaves, however, confident that there are a number of good people in Whistler who can carry on the work that’s been done to date.

"Obviously I still care a lot of what Whistler makes of it," he said.

"They’ll make something quite spectacular of sustainability."

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