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Our Challenge

As Stewart Brand said in the introduction to the Whole Earth Catalogs,

"If we are going to act like gods, we might as well get good at it."

And Biomimicry is one key, and in a sense, one of the legacy's of the Whole Earth movement. Like Buckminster Fuller's comprehensive antipatory design science, Biomimicry is (1) the exploration and understanding of nature, i.e., the environment, as the technology and economy of an exquisitely evolved and designed regenerative life support system (living machine) that has been tested and developed over 4.8 billion years of evolution, and then (2) applying those battle-hardened principles to all aspects of human activity--designing, creating, and managing of society, from industrial products, to urban and regional systems, to public policy, business, the economy, etc.

Key Questions

Sustainability 2030's (S2030) research/practice program addresses the following key questions:

1. How can you/we become effective, powerful, even transformational forces for sustainability?

2. What is the program required for ultimate sustainability success--the end game?

3. Who has part of the answer now (current sustainability champions), how far do they take us, and how can we harness the state-of-the-art leading edge sustainability to an innovative research/practice program that gets us to ultimate success in the limited time remaining?  (more)


Advance, accelerate, and amplify an accurate understanding of the sustainability challenge and how to harness the power and potential of sustainability for an effective response before time runs out. The Strategic Sustainability2030 Institute  (S2030I) is a web-based think/do tank (more).

International Society of Sustainability Professionals


April 2013, Chicago, APA National Conference.

May 13-15, 2013, Seattle, Living Future unConference.

PAST (2012):

October 23-26, Portland, EcoDistrict Summit 2012.

July 31-Aug. 4, Portland, Ecosystem Services Conference.

May 2-4, Portland, The Living Future Unconference for deep green professionals.

June 15-18, Brazil, Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

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Our Challenge

as Buckminster Fuller observed, is

"to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

This goal is the essence of sustainable development! The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) provides access to Bucky's legacy, including his comprehensive anticipatory design science revolution. Check out their website, their programs, and engage.

Problem & Way Out


Caption: "Sadly, the only proven way to achieve global GHG reductions so far has been economic recession." Comment: Fortunately, shifting to 100% renewables would catalyze the global transition to durable prosperity and community well-being in a way that would eliminate GHG production AND grow the economy <<continued>>. (See also: strategic sustainabilitynatural capitalismits four strategies, and RMI's Reinventing Fire [energy] Program.) 

APA Links

Green Urbanism - Formulating a series of holistic principles

Green Growth - Recent Developments (OECD)

Foundation Earth - Rethinking Society from the Ground Up

Reinventing Fire - A key transformational initiative of RMI worth knowing/watching.

A Quick-Start Guide to Strategic Sustainability Planning

NEW Report: Embedding sustainability into government culture.

New STARS LEED-like sustainable transportation tool for plans, projects, cities, corridors, regions.

Strategic Community Sustainability Planning workshop resources.

Leveraging Leading-Edge Sustainability report.

Winning or losing the future is our choice NOW!

How Possible is Sustainable Development, by Edward Jepson, PhD.

Legacy sustainability articles -- the Naphtali Knox collection.


TNS Transition to Global Sustainability Network

EcoDistricts -- NextGen Urban Sustainability

Darin Dinsmore: Community & Regional Sustainability Strategies and Planning

Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering and Design

APA-SCP (Sustainable Community Planning) Interest Group

Sustainability Learning Center

New path breaking Solutions Journal

Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Strategic Sustainability -- distance learning at BHT

Q4 Consulting - Mindfulness, Sustainability, and Leadership

RealClimate--Climate Science by Real Scientists

World Cafe--Designed Conversation for Group Intelligence

Real Change--Research Program for Global Sustainability Decision Making

RMI Conference, SF, 10-1/3-2009

Real Time Carbon Counter

Global Climate Change - Implications for US

Agenda for a Sustainable America 2009

ALIA Institute Sustainability Leadership

Frontiers in Ecological Economics

Herman Daly -- Failed Growth to Sustainable Steady State?

EOF - Macroeconomics and Ecological Sustainability

Gil Friend - Truth About Green Business

Sustainable Transpo SF

Google Earth-Day KMLs

AIA Sustainability 2030 Toolkit

Donella Meadows - Which Future?

Urban Mobility System wins Bucky Challenge 2009

Renewable Economy Cheaper than Systems Collapse

Population Growth-Earth Forum

Breakthrough Ideas-Bucky Challenge

Urban & Regional Planning-Cities at a Turning Point

John P. Holdren-Meeting the Climate Change Challenge

Stephen Cohen's Weekly Column in the New York Observer

« UNEP Green Economy Initiative | Main | UN Panel On Global Sustainability Created »

APA-SCP Sustainable Community Planning Interest Group Launched

The pace of APA's sustainability initiatives is quickening. In Fall 2009, the APA officially endorsed the Sustainable Community Plannng (SCP) Interest Group (see also the Ning Site) and the group launched itself publicly at the New Orleans National Conference in April 2010 (interest group formed in fall 2009). The initiative comes at a time of potential sea change for the APA regarding sustainability and the role of the planning profession in society. This sea-change moment is not unrelated to the critical, make-or-break juncture in world history that humanity finds itself facing at the beginning of the 21st century--the challenge of wrestling global sustainability from the increasingly irreversible and unsustainable effects of business as usual in all spheres of global society.

The APA has noted this critical moment with its own Sustaining Places Initiative (March 2010), its founding presence in the Global Planners Network (2006), and in collaborative work on the challenge for planning to reinvent itself, both nationally and internationally, to be a leading force for the sustainability transformation in the 21st century. This reinvention effort is similar to planning's genesis in the city beautiful movement as a response to early 20th century industrial challenges and subsequently, to the evolving challenges of post-industrial capitalism later in the century.

Since April 2010, the APA-SCP has gathered momentum with an email list already in the thousands, an organizing committee, etc. They see themselves as an advocacy campaign focused on moving a "deep" understanding of the sustainability imperative to the forefront of APA thinking and practice. Skim through the following links for a briefing and to get involved.

Go to their social networking spaces and get a sense of the dialogue and participants.

Based on their written material and social network sites, the group has a refreshing, energetic, youthful feel, embracing all contributions to a deeper more effective approach to sustainable community planning. It's amazing what the main streaming of a concept can do in a few short years compared to the late 1990s when I participated in an APA panel at the 1999 Seattle APA National Conference and contributed to some early work on the APA Sustainabiilty Policy Guide.

The challenge the group faces--as does any sustainability actor--is acquiring a powerful strategic sustainability planning approach that is effective at achieving sustainability in complex systems. Such an approach is needed to distinguish the sustainable from the unsustainable and the high-value from low-value initiatives and investments. Such distinctions form the basis for setting up contingent scenarios of the most promising future moves in a dynamic fluid environment, much like the game of chess. It is also needed to transform disparate, disconnected tactical sustainability initiatives into a powerful, on-going, self-funded, expanding, strategic approach of continual innovation and accelerating sustainability transformation at all levels of social organization, from community to global.

[It should be noted that time is of the essence in the face of accelerating socioeconomic-ecological trends that will soon approach or have already passed thresholds for biospheric change that are irreversible, will likely cause dramatic systems disequilibrium leading to substantial deterioration in life support capacity, and potentially will cause biospheric systems collapse at some point.]

One effective approach is The Natural Step (TNS)--a powerful innovation in planning methodology designed for working effectively in complex systems generally, and for achieving sustainability in particular. For that reason, it should be of special interest to planners and the planning profession given the comprehensive, complex, systems challenges they/it routinely face(s). Developed 20 years ago by a Swedish oncologist, Karl-Henrik Robert, and a team of 50 scientists, a scientific consensus was forged regarding the conditions for sustainability. Those conditions have been incorporated into a powerful strategic sustainability planning methodology that some businesses and municipalities around the world have used with success, often dramatic and transformational. In 2010, at this critical, make-or-break juncture in world history, the insights and benefits of The Natural Step’s powerful strategic sustainability planning methodology may be especially salient.

That cancer was likely incurable "downstream" after a patient incurred it, with the only cure being prevention far "upstream" in the chain of cause and effect was the epiphany that sparked Mr. Robert's innovative response. Planners are intimately familiar with the simple and familiar logic behind this epiphany--an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In fact, that very logic is found in many reasoned assessments of climate change (the front line of the larger sustainability challenge), such as the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Prevention is much less expensive and wiser than a cure after the fact, and highly preferable to adaptation once afflicted, particularly in the case of cancer, or similarly, unsustainability.

Of particular interest to the planning profession may be TNS-Canada's innovative work in Integrated Community Sustainability Planning (ICSP) over the past six years in response to federal legislation. They have been developing and leading transformative change and engagement programs based on TNS's strategic sustainability planning methodology to help communities and their leaders advance the practice of sustainability. One distinctive aspect of TNS (and ICSP), is that it is not characterized by a variety of discrete actions in diverse sectors, but rather by finding integrative approaches that produce multiple impacts and benefits within a strategy of on-going strategic innovation to the point of success. With the lessons learned over the past six years, TNS-Canada feels that what makes for effective community sustainability planning is beginning to emerge, and the course is a vehicle for transmitting those lessons more broadly. 

Of course, this challenge of forging an approach for effective sustainability planning in complex systems--such as communities and regions--is not unique to the APA-SCP, but faced by the planning profession and any actor embracing the sustainability challenge. The land use planning profession faces the challenge, both in current practice and in reinventing planning to deal effectively with the global-local nature of the sustainability challenge. The core conundrum is that the theoretical and practice domain of the planning profession is the physical/spatial settlement dimension of society, place, community, etc. To be practical and make problems managable in the face of larger political and societal forces that shape place, and that often operate outside the control of planning and planners, planning practice often defines a field of action and goals that exclude these larger forces. This will be a problem when it comes to adding community (and by implication, local-global societal) sustainability to planning's many existing objectives. The key societal forces shaping "place" sustainability are socioeconomic in nature, situated, in the first instance, outside of the spatial realm, but interact with it.

Thus, the sustainability challenge society faces is beyond “place” but affects it, and in turn, the nature of place(s) at any point in time affects the local, and systems-level, sustainability challenge. This linkage between place, the larger forces, and subsystem/system sustainability is the nexus for planners and planning to go to work with new multi-dimensional, multi-sector, multi-tasking, whole-systems resolutions that will not only create great places locally (the main charge of the planning profession), but drive the larger system towards sustainability too (an absolute requirement for sustainable communities). To fast-track employing a powerful strategic sustainability approach, the planning profession, through the APA, could partner with TNS-USA to develop a wide range of training and practice applications of a strategic sustainability approach to land use, community planning, etc., and doing so would accelerate a variety of APA's sustainability planning initiatives to make "great places happen."

TNS-USA works with buinesses and municipalities, as follows:.



As part of the larger "reinvention" challenge the profession faces (see APA CEO Paul Farmer's et. al, position paper), responding to the full challenge of planning and sustainability--that of place and the larger forces at play--somehow needs to be reframed as legitimately within planning’s professional domain (or at least the domain of one of society's institutions). Planning, due to its interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and potentially integrative nature, is well situated to be that institution for society. At least championing and leading an effective response to the full sustainability challenge needs to be reframed as legitimately within planning’s domain, and not simply left to the political realm, which does not seem inclined to touch it effectively (let alone embrace it for the seeds of political renewal that lie within it--but that's another story), or left to the uncoordinated net additive result of disparate expert initiatives:  energy experts, climate experts, food experts, water experts, etc. We've already seen where both of these approaches to the issue have gotten us over the past 50 years--to the brink of unsustainability. Business as usual will no longer cut it, and in fact is often unwittingly viewed as without negative risks and consequences, somehow blissfully eternally prosperous (the flawed logic of a type II error if there ever was one). Driving continual innovation towards sustainability transformation is now the "name of the game", the "order of the day," the task before us.

So, it is towards this challenge that the APA-SCP and the planning profession more generally march. The APA-SCP, along with other APA sustainability initiatives, could push the growing momentum for sustainability past the social tipping point where it becomes ubiquitous and produces the effective response we need in the few short years we have left to sow and grow the necessary seeds of economic and institutional transformation for sustainability success.

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