The Natural Step for Communities is a guide to applying the science- and democratic process of the Natural Step framework to the task of planning for sustainable towns and communities. It's full of concrete examples of localities where the framework has been put to use, focusing on the decades-old Swedish 'eco-municipalities' movement that has recently spread to the United States.
The Natural Step is a framework grounded in natural science that serves as a guide on the path toward sustainable development. The Natural Step for Communities is a book, chock-full of case studies and practical advice, about applying that framework at the community level.
Chronicled in the book are towns like Övertorneå, whose government operations recently became 100 per cent fossil fuel-free, demonstrating that unsustainable municipal practices really can be overhauled. Arguing that the process of introducing change -- whether converting to renewable energy or designing compact development -- is critical to success, the authors outline why well-intentioned proposals often fail to win community approval, and why an integrated approach -- not "single-issue" initiatives -- can surmount challenges of conflicting priorities, scarce resources, and turf battles.
The book first clarifies the concept of sustainability, offering guiding principles -- the Natural Step framework -- that help identify sustainable action in any area. It then introduces the sixty-plus eco-municipalities of Sweden that have adopted changes to sustainable practices throughout municipal policies and operations. The third section explains how they did it, and outlines how other communities in North America and elsewhere can do the same. Key to success is a democratic "bottom-up" change process, and clear guiding sustainability principles such as the Natural Step framework.
The book will appeal to both general readers wishing to understand better what sustainability means and practitioners interested in introducing or expanding sustainable development in their communities.
Sarah James is the principal of a city and town planning consulting firm specializing in participatory planning methods. She co-authored the American Planning Association's Planning for Sustainability Policy guide, and has published articles and given workshops throughout the United States on this subject.
Torbjörn Lahti is the project director for Sustainable Robertsfors, a five-year sustainable community demonstration project. He was the project planner for Sweden's first eco-municipality, Övertorneå, and was instrumental in the formation of SeKom, the Swedish national association of eco-municipalities.