The Natural Step

Conditions for a Sustainable Society*

In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing

  1. … concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust (such as heavy metals,fossil fuels, etc.)
  2. … concentrations of substances produced by society(such as plastics, toxic chemicals, etc.)
  3. … degradation by physical means (such as via erosion, or rapid depletion of unique eco-systems, etc.)

And in that society,…

people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.

Guiding Objectives for a Sustainable Community*

Develop policies and practices that ultimately:

  1. Eliminate our community’s contribution to fossil fuel dependence and to wasteful use of scarce metals and minerals.
  2. Eliminate our community’s contribution to dependence upon persistent chemicals and wasteful use of synthetic substances.
  3. Eliminate our community’s contribution to encroachment upon nature (e.g., land, water, wildlife, forests, soil, ecosystems).
  4. Meet human needs fairly and efficiently.


Moving It Along…

  • Learn and understand the Earth’s game rules – e.g., the system conditions and what they means for meeting human needs within nature’s limits.
  • See where we are – Ask ourselves, “To what extent are we living within the boundaries defined by the Natural Step guiding principles or guiding objectives?”
  • Envision the future we want – a future in which we can enjoy well-being without contributing to injustice or environmental problems.
  • Find a smart route – We make plans on the basis of the vision we have created, and take well-measured strides on the right road, which may be winding, but which leads to the chosen goal.



Based on Dr. Karl Henrik-Robert’s The Natural Step

Compiled by Sarah James · Sarah James & Associates · Cambridge, MA

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