Keywords

sustainability potential, systemic assessment, human-environmental system, landfill

Start Date

1-7-2002 12:00 AM

Description

Although sustainability is a widely accepted guiding idea for the development of our planet, only a few concepts exist on how to specify this idea in the context of human-environmental systems. We understand sustainability as a combination of system limit management with ethical allegiances. Uncertainties given by large timeframes and vague definitions present a major problem when assessing if an object or circumstance is sustainable or not. However, a sound standing assessment is indispensable if sustainability is to be more than a buzzword. In this paper, we present a systemic method for assessing the sustainability potential of anthropogenic systems. This sustainability potential analysis (SPA) is based on the theory that systems are characterized by three core elements: function, context and structure. SPA is organized along these elements, which are specified in six system attributes. These attributes are considered sufficient for the assessment. They define the general system framework, which is crucial for assessing the potential of the observed system and its surroundings to develop sustainably. Rating today’s potential to support or stem a sustainable development eludes the above mentioned uncertainties. We present findings of the methods’ application on landfills. These man-made systems fulfil specific functions for present generations, which might have shortand most of all long-term side effects on related systems (e.g. vicinal eco-systems or societies). For example, their increased content of heavy metals is expected to endanger groundwater resources for thousands of years. Only an encompassing view on these systems, as provided by SPA, allows a rational assessment in respect of the multitude of intra- and intergenerational problems. The findings reveal the system characteristics and its weak points. Based on these insights decision-makers have the possibility to develop and realize efficient strategies to improve the general conditions for a sustainable regional development.

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Jul 1st, 12:00 AM

Ideas for Assessing the Sustainability Potential of Human- Environmental Auxiliary Systems - The Case of Municipal Solid Waste Landfills -

Although sustainability is a widely accepted guiding idea for the development of our planet, only a few concepts exist on how to specify this idea in the context of human-environmental systems. We understand sustainability as a combination of system limit management with ethical allegiances. Uncertainties given by large timeframes and vague definitions present a major problem when assessing if an object or circumstance is sustainable or not. However, a sound standing assessment is indispensable if sustainability is to be more than a buzzword. In this paper, we present a systemic method for assessing the sustainability potential of anthropogenic systems. This sustainability potential analysis (SPA) is based on the theory that systems are characterized by three core elements: function, context and structure. SPA is organized along these elements, which are specified in six system attributes. These attributes are considered sufficient for the assessment. They define the general system framework, which is crucial for assessing the potential of the observed system and its surroundings to develop sustainably. Rating today’s potential to support or stem a sustainable development eludes the above mentioned uncertainties. We present findings of the methods’ application on landfills. These man-made systems fulfil specific functions for present generations, which might have shortand most of all long-term side effects on related systems (e.g. vicinal eco-systems or societies). For example, their increased content of heavy metals is expected to endanger groundwater resources for thousands of years. Only an encompassing view on these systems, as provided by SPA, allows a rational assessment in respect of the multitude of intra- and intergenerational problems. The findings reveal the system characteristics and its weak points. Based on these insights decision-makers have the possibility to develop and realize efficient strategies to improve the general conditions for a sustainable regional development.