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The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices Paperback – April 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Sustainability may seem like one more buzzword, and cities and towns like the last places to change, but The Natural Step for Communities provides inspiring examples of communities that have made dramatic changes toward sustainability, and explains how others can emulate their success.

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.

About the Author

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865714916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865714915
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,134,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer M on February 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the 1980s, Lahti's hometown of Overtornea, Sweden was dying. The worldwide recession left the village in an inhospitable climate with no major industry and a declining population. Lahti organized community residents and developed a plan to revitalize Overtornea using principles of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Thus was born the sustainability revolution in Sweden that is taking hold in Europe and spreading to other parts of the world. This is not a story, but a how-to manual. The king of Sweden has endorsed Lahti's methods and seen a resurgence of vital business throughout the country while reducing waste and fossil fuel consumption.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Justin M. Glodowski on December 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Currently, my city is undergoing a move from an average municipality to becoming an eco-municipality. This change would have never been possible without this inspirational book. Our city is working at creating a system approach to change rather than doing one little thing at a time just like The Natural Step advises.

It has helped other cities in Wisconsin to become more sustainable and it truly has a lot of ideas in it. It uses a lot of referesnces to Sweden, but still leaves room to discuss how North America is pushing for change as well. This is a MUST read for anybody who works in municipal government or is an active community leader.
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By J.H. on January 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this book as required reading for my UCLA Extension class called Sustainable Communities. Fantastic class, and fantastic book. Whether you're new or advanced in sustainability practices, this is a book that keeps on giving. There's a plethora of great examples from communities (mostly in Sweden) that exhibit sustainable practices and used the tools of the Natural Step Framework to bail themselves out of some pretty bad situations. I also purchased The Natural Step for Business (for another class) and it was also good, but I feel The Natural Step for Communities gives you an even better systems perspective of this method and how best to apply it in the real world.

My one criticism is that I wish there were a greater geographical variety of communities discussed in this book. Since The Natural Step was created in Sweden, it makes sense that it has had the most prevalent impact there. As such, many of the communities discussed are Swedish and at the end of each chapter examples from around the world are given in a concluding paragraph. I think an updated version using fleshed-out international examples would benefit the readers of this book, but honestly you can't go wrong with the version as is.

As with anything in sustainability, there is no one size fits all solution. When reading this, use your abstract thinking skills to apply these concepts and methods to communities of different population sizes, geographical expanse, diversity, affluence, and so on. Particularly here in the US, people would do well to give this book a read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Forrest Butterfield on February 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
Read the book from my bother's recommendation. He, especially, liked the Heat and Thermal aspect/analogy as being one himself. The book is an interesting read, some far fetched solutions, but in general makes sense. Myself, not as enthralled, but will award a four star for interesting subject. My background from business and manufacturing just made me more of skeptic for the easy solutions. So many books written on sustainability or becoming self sufficient with Green low cost (long term) expense. I admit, I love these reads and dream with my Mother Earth magizine in hand.

First, I don't believe, poor communities would change that much unless the education and morality of neighborhood improved. That is, in my opinion, the biggest obstacle. Also, the Natural Step has always been with us. It is a natural progression. As with all experiments the success requires testing, analysis, cost benefit analysis, investments, communication, Engineering, sciences, and the such always based on quality of life, standard of living, or lower cost. For instance, read up on the technology of farming. It is amazing, the modern practices.

Some things to think about....would community gardens or private household hydroponics and Earthboxes may be a better alternative? Consider progress upon the medical sector as technology, meds, and statistical studies uncovering tremendous disease prevention improvements. Energy sector is currently in revolutionary phase with alternative fuels, energy storage, and efficiences. Electrical grid and power generation for long time has quietly been tested and improved upon technology.

May this be the biggest benefit to society to finally becomes interested in such matters? To actually invest in being part of the experiment?
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