Omnibus: Becoming a Good Sustainability Planning Practitioner

8th November 2010


Introduction to Sustainability Planning Approaches - Natural Resources


Today we focus on the approaches to sustainability planning that are particularly associated with the environment and natural resources. Our consideration builds on last week's discussion of the ways in which planning for the environment and natural resources is a part of the urban focused approaches. In many and varied ways the generally more comprehensive and broadly oriented urban approaches to sustainability planning have incorporated ideas from those that have been developed firstly with a focus on the environment and natural resources.

What was said about the linkages between planning theory and the urban focused approaches to sustainability planning is largely also the case for the approaches focused on the environment and natural resources. Likewise the characteristics of the approaches have many similarities. Once you have developed an initial understanding about the approaches below, go back to what was said in the introduction to last week's class to consider how it applies here.

Below are listed some of the approaches to sustainability planning for environment and natural resources that are influential today. They are listed under the topic with which they tend to be most often associated. Some are thematic, such as integration, others are related to specific resources, such as water. Where they exist I have provided links to national/international and local organizations or examples relating to these approaches. In reviewing each of these approaches think about the following questions in preparation for our class discussions:


Integration has become a widely used theme in approaches to planning for the environment and natural resources. (It is, however, interesting to note that "The Integrated City" is not a term that has caught on with the urban focused approaches).


Integrated Waste Management


Integrated Water Resources Management and note B.C. Hydro's Water Use Plan


Integrated Land Management and note B.C.'s Strategic Land and Resource Planning

Materials, Water, Energy, Climate

Integrated Resource Management (read Executive Summary of Report)

Natural Capitalism is a perspective that has become highly influential, particularly in the increasingly comprehensive integrated approaches. (Recall the earlier discussions of sustainability indicators and the arguments for assessing all forms of capital - natural, social, intellectual, human-made, financial etc and the conceptualization of sustainability as a challenge in sustaining the stocks of capital.


Studies stimulated in large part by the challenges created by overharvesting and habitat destruction, have led to increasing understanding of the importance of resiliency and stability of ecosystems. These ideas are strongly identified with the work of C.S. (Buzz) Holling, which he began with a team at UBC in the 1970s. (It is noteworthy that these ideas have been subsequently applied to the behaviour of economic and social systems, as well as others, and that idea of The Resilient City has caught hold, being central to the prize winning citiesPLUS 100 year plan for the GVRD. Read the Key Concepts pages (Adaptive Capacity, Adaptive Cycle, Adaptive Management, Panarchy, Resilience) of the Resilience Alliance website (which contains a wealth of interesting information).

Precautionary Approach

How to act under conditions of risk and uncertainty has been shown to be a critical consideration by the work on resilience and in many other studies of environment and resource management. The Precautionary Approach or what some refer to as a Principle because of its ethical content has become an important approach.

A Canadian Perspective on the Precautionary Approach/Principle {The link to this document has been removed from the Environment Canada web site since last year. Please let me know if you find a copy of the document}

Precautionary Principle


Climate Change Impacts Adaptation


Sustainable Strategies for Oceans: A Co-Management Guide

Common Property Management

See the Wikipedia article on Common-Pool Resources for an introduction and note references to Elinor Ostrom, the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Economics. Most literature on Common Property Management links back to Garrett Hardin's seminal 1968 article on The Tragedy of the Commons.


The Bio-Regional Congress



The goal of today's sessions is to examine some of the key concepts in approaches to environment and natural resources planning and how they relate to sustainability planning in general and the urban context in particular by relating them to our discussion last week of approaches to urban sustainability planning.

1.30-3.00 Session 1: Integrated

During the first session today you will come together in the same 3 round tables as during last week with representatives from each of the Group Assignment case studies:

Round Table 1: Yaheli, Kevin, William, Andrew, Sandra, Lindsay B., Jason, Ryan, John, Devon, Erik, Tim

Round Table 2: Polly, Kerri, Thomas B., Allison, Thomas D., Debra, Yazmin, Juliet, Erica, Lauren, Ruth

Round Table 3: Meredith, Tamara, Maria, Lindsay N., Maysa, Adam, Daniel, Jessie, Sarah, Evan, Jennifer


The schedule for the round table discussions will be as follows:

1.30 - 2.15

Drawing on the varied examples of integration that you have looked at above

  1. What is it that each is attempting to integrate?
  2. To what extent is each considering the sustainability dimensions (economic, environment and social)?
  3. Are they or could they be incorporated in any of the urban sustainability planning approaches we examined last week?

Prepare a one-page flip chart summary for each.

To ensure we cover each of the five examples, Table 1 begins with Material and Water; Table 2 begins with Land; and Table 3 begins with Integrated Resource Management. If time permits go on to others.

2.15 - 3.00

Each table will present its conclusions and then there will be a plenary discussion.

10 minute break

3.10-4.00 Session 2: Resilience, Precaution and Adaptation

Staying in the same table groups discuss the concepts of resilience, precaution and adaptation and their interrelationships and identify how they are already or might be incorporated into the approaches to urban sustainability planning that we examined last time. Summarize your conclusions on one page of a flip chart for presentation and plenary discussion after 30 minutes.

10 minute break

4.10-5.00 Session 3: Co-Management, Common Property and Bioregionalism

Staying in the same table groups discuss the implications of the concepts of co-management, common property management and bioregionalism for the design of sustainability governance arrangements. Summarize your conclusions on one page of a flip chart for presentation and plenary discussion after 30 minutes.