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Welcome to the Vernon Natural Step blog: a site created for sharing information about Natural Step and other sustainable planning activities and information, primarily in Vernon County, southwest Wisconsin but also in the greater Kickapoo and upper Mississippi watersheds. Anyone may post comments on this site, but if you would like to be a contributor (able to initiate postings), please give us your name and e-mail address in a comment below.

What is the Natural Step? It is simply a framework to assist a community in making decisions that lead to sustainable development. Let’s put that in context.


Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
—U.N. Brundtland Report, 1987

In 1983, Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt—a Swedish pediatrician who had observed and become concerned about a relationship between increases in childhood cancer rates and environmental degradation—led a group of scientists to create the Natural Step framework: an approach to community planning for sustainability which became widely adopted all over Sweden and has since spread around the world, including many communities in the United States (with the city and county of La Crosse being the closest).
For an excellent presentation of the history & approaches of the Natural Steps framework, please read this pdf of a slide/lecture by Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, available on the “Study Materials” page of this site.
The Natural Step approach is both “bottom-up” (starting at the municipal or community level, rather than “top-down”) and systemic—focusing on how whole systems work and interact, rather than focusing on isolated problems. At the core of the Natural Step approach are two elements: a framework of four guiding objectives and a four-step planning process.

The four guiding objectives are to develop policies and practices that ultimately:
1. reduce a community’s dependence upon fossil fuels and upon extracted underground metals and minerals,
2. reduce a community’s dependence on chemicals and other manufactured substances that can accumulate in Nature,
3. reduce a community’s encroachment upon Nature,
4. meet the needs of its people fairly and efficiently.

The planning process is called “the A-B-C-D process” or “the Compass.”
A – Raise Awareness and common understanding of what sustainability means and what the Natural Step framework involves.
B – Establish a Baseline map or an inventory of present conditions.
C – Create a Compelling vision of the desired future.
D – Get Down to action by creating an action plan.