The Triple Bottom Line – Up Close and Personal

3P GraphicThe Triple Bottom Line model for Sustainability emphasizes the interdependence of the natural world, productive industry (which includes manufacturing, mining and agriculture) and human society. “Triple Bottom Line” sounds almost trite when read or said. However, when I look out my bedroom window, I have a vivid example of that interdependence literally right in front of me — the Verde River Green Zone.

The Edge of the Wild, a post to this blog from nearly two years ago, takes an up close and personal look at the Triple Bottom Line. – C.H.


The Edge of the Wild (from 9 December 2014)

The Verde River and Its Green Zone

My house is on a bluff, above and overlooking the upper reaches of the Verde River in the high desert of central Arizona. The Verde isn’t very big. However, its source is on the Mogollon Rim (a long stretch of stark cliffs marking the edge of the Colorado Plateau), fed from the 12,600’+ heights of the San Francisco Peaks. So, unlike many rivers and streams in Arizona, it rather reliably has water in it. (About 90% of all streams in Arizona are “ephemeral”, meaning they are dry except after heavy rains – which are rare.) Not surprisingly, the Verde is Arizona’s only federally designated Wild and Scenic River.

Sycamore Canyon RailwayThe Verde supports a narrow riparian green zone, typically spanning a hundred yards or so. The green zone, with its trees and foliage, stands in sharp contrast to the rocks and scrub of the adjacent desert. Riparian zones are quite rare in Arizona, constituting only about 0.4% of the land. Development within the riparian zone is hindered, since almost all of the land within the zone is subject to flash floods. Also, much of the land adjoining the river is within national forests, or is otherwise public property.

In Arizona, a few, thin riparian zones support an abundance of wildlife – coyote, javelin, waterfowl, eagles, hawks, hummingbirds and much more, including a significant number of endangered species. Riparian zones, to beg the obvious, are critical to biodiversity in arid Arizona.[1]

Little Daisy

Arizona is nicknamed “The Copper State”. The Little Daisy mine, extensively developed just in time to supply copper for the First World War, had a lot to do with that. The Little Daisy is on the slope of Mingus Mountain. Copper ore was moved down the mountain to be processed and smelted near Clarkdale, on the banks of the Verde. Mine tailings went along with the ore.[2]

There are a fair number of photographs of copper mining and refining operations here, many from a century ago. Suffice it to say that early 20th century copper mining was an environmental calamity.

Tuzigoot

Tuzigoot National MonumentTuzigoot National Monument stands near the Verde, about two miles downriver from Clarkdale. Tuzigoot is an archeological site where ruins from the Sinaguan Native American culture have been unearthed and partially reconstructed. The Sinaguan culture dates from about 550 C.E. – 1425 C.E. There are several more unexcavated sites like Tuzigoot along the Verde, including one about a quarter of a mile downriver from my house.[3]

The Sinaguan sites along the Verde were likely abandoned around 1200 C.E. The reason the sites were vacated is not clear. A period of severe drought is a reasonable guess.

Getting to the Point

This blog is about Sustainability. This post offers three examples, all within a few miles of my home that help clarify what Sustainability, in the Triple Bottom Line sense, is all about.

The Verde and its riparian zone >> I like to think of Common Wealth, that is, of worth held mutually by the inhabitants of some place or nation – or by humanity in general. This is a form of mutual inheritance that the current generation holds in trust for future generations. Each generation is entitled to the fruits of the Common Wealth, in return for protecting and extending the orchard.

Mining operations >> Early 20th century mining operations placed enormous stress on the environment, including waters like the Verde. The photographs are really striking. And the Verde, then as now, is a major water source for Phoenix, over a hundred miles downstream. Containing the effects of mining and industrial operations is a primary management responsibility, ethically as well as legally.

The Sinaguan people >> Apparently, the Sinaguan people lived along the Verde for several centuries. Then they left. The reason for their departure may well have been a collapse of the natural environment they depended on due to a prolonged drought.

This is a rather vivid illustration of the dependence of peoples and cultures on the natural environment. It applies to everybody. And it applies to human – generated pressures on the environment, as well as natural cyclic phenomena. The natural environment is your business – and your business’s business.


Chuck - Red RocksThoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.

…  Chuck Harrington (Chuck@JeraSustainableDevelopment.com)

This blog and associated website (www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com) are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome.


[1] For more on riparian green zones, see http://arizonaexperience.org/land/riparian-areas

[2] For more on the Little daisy mine and early 20th century copper mining, see http://azstateparks.com/Parks/JERO/

[3] “Sinagua” means “without water”. For more on the Sinaguan culture, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinagua