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-- - Sustainability - --

"Sustainability" means we benefit from resources without compromising the ability of future generations to benefit from them.

The Natural Step Framework for Sustainability can help us understand that concept even further, providing insight for achieiving balance in our resource use.

Refer to:
System Principles | System Conditions | Life Requirements Checklist

System Principles
1. Nothing disappears.

CONCEPT: All the matter that was on earth millions of years ago is still here. Anything we create stays here. You can't destroy matter or energy only change its composition or form. You never really throw anything "away," you just put it somewhere else.

EXAMPLES: Burn fossil fuels and they turn into visible and invisible gas. Some of those gases are useful, except in excess (carbon dioxide). Others are neutral (water vapor), but some are toxic (sulphur dioxide).
2. Everything spreads.

CONCEPT: Matter and energy like to break up into smaller units. Everything tends to disperse. Nature is extremely efficient, if it takes less energy to come apart than stay together, matter will disaggregate into its smallest pieces and be diluted.

EXAMPLES: Organic matter decays, soil erodes, dye in water disperses and dioxin can be found throughout the Arctic.
3. There is value in order.

CONCEPT: We actually consume the order, structure and concentration of something, not all of its molecules. Molecules have higher value to humans when they are consolidated into "stuff."

EXAMPLE: Think of a tree as it turns into sawdust.
4. Plants create structure and order from the sun's energy.

CONCEPT: Nature operates cyclically, things are designed to come apart to become building blocks for new matter. But in nature, only the sun and photosynthesis can reconsolidate living material through energy.

System Conditions
1. Balance lithosphere extraction with reabsorption capabilities

CONCEPT: You can't have a sustainable life system if you consistently put substances from the earth's crust into the biosphere and atmosphere faster than nature can dilute, reabsorb, neutralize or disperse them. Nature's surface systems are not set up to accept large amounts of these "new" substances.

SMART RESPONSE: Fossil fuels, plutonium, lead, mercury, asbestos. Too much or too free can cause problems.
2. Balance substance production and accumulation with reabsorption capabilities.

CONCEPT: Some human made substances are spreading all over the place. We can't stop them and nature can't absorb, dilute, neutralize or break them down before they do harm.

EXAMPLES: Dioxin, DDT, nuclear waste, PCB, freon, chlorofluorocarbons, pesticides, etc.

SMART RESPONSE: Reduce dependence on persistent human made compounds.
3. Maintain quality and quantity of biodiversity & resource productivity.

CONCEPT: Using resources aggressively depletes the ability of the land or resource to renew itself. Its ability to convert wastes to resources is diminished. Habitat dependent species decline when those habitats decline.

EXAMPLES: Developments in winter range. Using more groundwater than is being replaced.

SMART RESPONSE: Use resources with less waste. Maintain balance between consumption and renewal. Maintain spectrum of biodiversity.
4. Meet needs of all humans fairly and efficiently.

CONCEPT: Sustainability means we use resources more efficiently and generate less waste. Fairness is necessary for social and economic stability. More population puts more pressure on resources; it's going to get harder.

EXAMPLES: To have 5% of civilization use 30% of the resources isn't fair. Some nations can't feed themselves because of land converted from family farms to monoculture agribusiness.

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