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Earth Year for October 2019: The fourth step toward sustainability

Earth Year for October 2019: The fourth step toward sustainability

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This is the fourth in a series of four columns examining the four steps in the Natural Step framework for sustainability. The online version of this column includes links to the previous three columns.

In the Natural Step framework for sustainability I have found the fourth system condition or principle the most difficult for Americans. It is the social piece and shares the stage equally with the other three principles in importance.

The formal wording is as follows:

“In a sustainable society people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.” Notice that it does not say society has to provide things for its members but it has to create the conditions so people can meet their own needs. In sustainability consultant Alan AtKisson’s words, the fourth system condition means that you do your business efficiently and make sure everyone has enough.

If we continue to undermine nature’s capacity to provide us with a healthy atmosphere, clean air, clean water, and other resources, people will not be able to meet their needs and this creates conflict, war and suffering.

The fourth system goes on to list human needs based on the Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef’s work. These nine basic needs are all equally important — there is no hierarchy here. Subsistence, understanding, protection, creativity, identity, participation, affection, freedom and idleness are all necessary. Think about it. How would you feel if you or your children were deprived of any of these?

The loss of any of these makes for poverty in some arena. For many Americans, idleness is in short supply. Note that idleness is different from leisure, when we often have plans and activities. Children most obviously need idleness — time to look up at the clouds and let their imaginations roam. Adults also need that time, though we rarely take it.

The social capital that allows us to meet our needs includes our laws, schools, faith institutions, health care systems, and clubs along with many other institutions that help individuals to meet their own needs. Recognizing that we are all interdependent and that we all need to have rights coupled with responsibilities is a start to incorporating the fourth system condition into sustainability planning.

The Natural Step is a whole systems approach looking at life on our planet as truly interrelated and interdependent. The founder, Dr Karl Henrik Robert, wanted to look at how to protect all life on our planet by supporting conditions that would create healthy living cells. That is truly systems thinking.

October’s events provide a range of sustainability events to choose from.

• Leaping Lizards: 1-3 p.m. Oct. 6, Finley Wildlife Refuge Nature Store, Finley Refuge Road, one mile east of Bellfountain Road. This free program will look at many of the reptiles and amphibians present on the valley refuges, led by Mark Leppin, an active member of the Oregon State Herpetology Club. For more information contact or RSVP if you plan to attend.

• Champinefu Lecture Series – The Untold Stories of the Kalapuya, Texts II: 7 p.m. Oct. 9, Majestic Theater, 115 SW Second St., Corvallis. Jedd Schrock, translator for Kalapuya Texts II, shows and relates untold Kalapuya stories and culture found in this newly translated to English book from original Kalapuya interviews. Free. Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information contact Dave Eckert at or 541-230-1237.

• Filtering Wetland Restoration Native Planting Party: noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 12, Starker Arts Park, 4485 SW Country Club Drive, adjacent to the Starker Arts Pond in Corvallis. Effort to replant over 1,000 native grasses, perennials and shrubs to restore a wetland designed to filter runoff from the Starker pond before it enters the south branch of Dunawi Creek. Free, but registration is required. To register, contact Dave Eckert at: or (541) 230-1237.

• Second Saturday Arts Day – Dusky Canada Goose Day: 1-4 p.m. Oct. 12, The Arts Center, 700 SW Madison Avenue, Corvallis. A day of arts and crafts to celebrate and learn about the dusky Canada goose. Free. For more information contact or access the website

• Audubon Field Trip: 7 a.m. to noon Oct. 12, meet at Willamette Park picnic shelter, east end of Southeast Goodnight Avenue, Corvallis. The Audubon field trip is to be determined and the trip is free but registration required. Contact for more information and to register.

• Fourth Annual Street Talk (formerly Bike-O-Rama): 6-8:30 p.m., with keynote at 7 p.m., Oct. 15, Old World Deli, 341 SW Second St., Corvallis. Street Talk brings discussions on how Corvallis residents walk, ride, roll and interact with our streets. Keynote speaker Mike Myers, Portland’s emergency management director, will discuss community building, street design and improving public safety for all users. For more information contact

• Wildlife in Crisis on the Texas Border: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 17, Wesley Hall, First United Methodist Church, 1165 NW Monroe Ave., Corvallis. Free program by Dave Bucy sponsored by the Audubon Society of Corvallis. All ages welcome. For more information contact

• “Hidden Rivers” film premiere and benefit, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17, Whiteside Theater, 361 SW Madison Ave., Corvallis. A night of imagery, story, and immersion into America's richest freshwater ecosystems, featuring the Northwest premiere of the feature film "Hidden Rivers," a Q&A with the film creators, and photography by David Herasimtschuk. "Hidden Rivers" explores North America's biologically rich bodies of water and the individuals committed to preserving them. Tickets purchased by Oct. 16: $12 for adults, $10 for students, $8 for children. For more information contact

• Sustainability Coalition Quarterly Gathering: noon to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 18, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, 645 NW Monroe Avenue. Free. Presentations by coalition partners and action teams, refreshments and networking opportunities. For more information contact or or 541-230-1237.

• Parking in Corvallis – A Community Discussion: 7 p.m. Oct. 22, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library. Explore perspectives and issues related to parking. Sustainability Coalition and League of Women Voters sponsored free event. For more information contact or 541-230-1237.

• Artscend Marys Peak Reading: 7 p.m. Oct. 24, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library. Local writers present a juried selection of prose, poetry, and creative field guide entries inspired by guided trips to Marys Peak. Free. For more information contact

• Do It Yourself Green Cleaning Demonstration: noon to 2 p.m., Oct. 25, OSUsed Store, 644 SW 13th St. A few basic food-safe ingredients can clean your home. Take home a free sample. Free. For more information, contact, or 541-737-5398.

Maureen Beezhold has been writing the Earth Year monthly column since 1999. She works with the sustainability committee at the Beit Am Jewish Committee and organizes a monthly walk for Corvallis area interfaith leaders. She can be reached at 541-752-3517 or


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