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Deriving indicators of sustainable development
H a r t m u t Bossel Centerfor EnvironmentalSystemsResearch, UniversityofKassel,D-34109Kassel,Germany Received 6 November 1996; revised6 January 1997
Assessments of current and future development paths require comprehensive sets of indicators coveting all essential aspects. From a holistic systems point of view, most currently proposed indicator sets are incomplete and deficient. Assessments of sustainable development require a full representation of the satisfaction states of the "basic orientors" (= fundamental interests) of constituent sector systems, and of their contribution to basic orientor satisfaction of the total system. Basic orientors are value dimensions (existence, effectiveness, freedom of action, security, adaptability, coexistence) emerging from a self-organizing system's interaction with its environment, and its fundamental properties (normal environmental state, scarce resources, variety, variability, change, other systems). Basic orientors are also reflected in human emotions, societal punishment, psychological and social needs, life styles, and values emerging in self-organization of artificial life. The relative weight assigned to basic orientors of partner systems is a question of ethics. Based on these concepts, a general scheme for finding a "complete" set of indicators of viability and sustainability is derived, and it is applied to deriving a comprehensive set of indicators of sustainable development for society and its sector systems (infrastructure, economic system, social system, individual development, government, environment and resource system). The method can be applied at different levels of complexity and regional resolution. A full set of regional indicators for sustainable development is presented, a method for compact assessmentof development paths using orientor stars is described, and the approach for application at the community level is outlined. Keywords: Sustainable development, viability, indicators, orientors, ethics, future discount, assessment.
1 I n d i c a t o r s : G u i d e p o s t s in a c o m p l e x w o r l d We live by indicators. A smile signals friendliness, a gray sky: possible rain, a red traffic light: danger o f collision, the hands o f a watch: the time of day, a high body temperature: illness, rising unemployment: social trouble. The m o r e complex our environment, the m o r e indicators we h a v e to watch. I f we want to c o m p a r e future paths and their impacts, we have to look at representative indicators. Indicators are our link to the world. They condense its e n o r m o u s complexity to a m a n a g e a b l e a m o u n t of meaningful i n f o r m a t i o n informing our decisions and directing our actions. I f we have learned to watch the right indicators, we can understand a n d cope with our dynamic environment. I f we follow the wrong signals, we get confused or misled, responding inappropriately, against o u r true interests and intentions. In the course o f growing up, in our formal education, and in learning to cope with our specific personal and professional e n v i r o n m e n t we have learned the meaning and significance o f the indicators we use in our daily lives. T h e indicators we watch m e a n something to us, they are o f value to us because they tell us something that is in some w a y i m p o r t a n t to us. They help us to construct a picture o f the state of our environment on which we can base intelligent decisions to protect and p r o m o t e w h a t we care about. Indicators are therefore an expression o f values. Learning to handle a complex system means learning 9 Baltzer Science Publishers BV
to recognize a specific set o f indicators, and to assess what their current state means for the " h e a l t h " , or viability, of the system. Often this learning of indicators is intuitive, informal, subconscious: a m o t h e r learning to recognize, and to respond to, the signals f r o m her newborn baby, or a farmer learning to recognize the signals f r o m the animals, plants, and soil under his care. Intuitive learning is not sufficient for handling m a n y of the complex systems that humans have constructed, such as airplanes, production systems, the economy. In fact, such systems require specific instruments providing indicator information to the h u m a n s in charge o f them, such as air speed indicators, pressure and temperature gauges, cost-of-living and e m p l o y m e n t indicators, or the D e w - J o n e s index. Indicator sets about a given system are determined by two distinct requirements: (1) They have to provide vital information providing a " p i c t u r e " a b o u t the current state of the system (health, viability); (2) they have to provide sufficient information to the " p i l o t " to successfully intervene and correct system behavior with respect to given objectives, and to determine the relative success of his or her intervention. In other words, indicator sets are determined by (1) the system itself, and (2) the interests, needs, or objectives o f their o p e r a t o r or observer.
A modern airplane is a good example of this dual role of indicators.The restrictionsof space and weight, and of the information processing capacity of the crew, allow only instruments providing essentialinformation.
H. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development
There are basically two groups of instruments providing information about (I) the current state and viability of the airplane itself, and (2) its position and heading with respect to the destination chosen by the pilot. Moreover, these indicators will not all be of equal importance to the pilot and to the operation of the airplane. Some of these, like airspeed and attitude indicators, require his or her continuous attention, while others, like fuel and oil pressure gauges, are only needed for occasional checks. The human societal system, its component systems, and the resource and environmental system on which they depend, are complex dynamic systems. Just like the pilots of aircraft, the human individuals and organizations who run these systems need comprehensive sets of indicators providing essential information about (1) the state and viability of these systems themselves, and (2) about their "position" with respect to human goals. The latter point means that human goals and values figure prominently in the definition of indicator sets of human societal development. In fact, ethical choice is reflected in the selection of indicators and the attention focused on each of them. The aircraft instruments analogy (and in fact, every instrument panel of a complex industrial or technical process) provides us with another important hint about the general nature of indicators. There are always two different types: One for the measurement of system states and position ("stocks" or "levels"), such as the content of fuel tanks and batteries, or current position, the other for the rates of change of system state or position, such as current fuel consumption per minute, electric power consumption (watts), rate of climb (meters per second, or feet per minute), or flight speed (kilometers per hour, or knots). System theory tells us that there can be no other type of indicator, i.e., indicators of "states" and of "rates". The state indicators inform us about the current states of the system, the rate indicators tell us how quickly these states change. Usually, the rate indicators are the more important ones: They inform us of any change that is under way, much sooner than we can notice it in the states themselves. For example, the hang-glider pilot concentrates on his or her rate-of-climb indicator: It will show "climb" long before any gain in altitude shows up on the altimeter. Systems theory tells us another important thing: We do not have to use each and every variable in the system as an indicator. Many are merely combinations of others and provide no new information. This simplifies the task: We only have to consider those variables that provide essential information, which cannot be gotten from clever use of other variables. For example, we can compute average daily food consumption of individuals in a population from the population number (a state) and annual national food sales (a rate); we do not have to count calories in every household. Indicator information can be quantitative ("hard"
numbers) or qualitative (e.g. "sufficient food", or "substandard education"). In the end, any "hard number" must be translated into a qualitative statement anyway in determining whether or not that indicator contributes to system viability, or goal achievement. This again brings in unavoidable valuation. We now know what we need and want as indicators: system variables that provide us with all essential information about the health (viability) of a system and its rate of change, and about how they contribute to the goals we want to achieve with the help of that system. That was the easy part; the hard part is defining a suitable set of indicators for a given application. In the following, we shall concentrate on finding a comprehensive set of indicators for sustainable development (cf. Pinter and Hardi ). We need it: (1) to see where we stand and where we are going, and (2) to compare - as objectively as possible - the relative merits and demerits of competing alternatives, and of different paths into the future.
2 The search for indicators Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, indicator sets should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. The simplest case would be to agree on a single indicator - would that work? For ages, people have often been judged by a single indicator: their wealth. But that single magic figure of x million dollars, or y hundred hectares of land, or z heads of cattle implicitly expressed much more than property: It expressed the ability to buy sufficient food, to build a comfortable house, to feed even a large family, to live in luxury, to educate children, to pay for health care, and to support oneself in old age. And it implied that under these circumstances, you could be reasonably happy. In other words, under prevailing conditions, "wealth" could be used as an aggregate indicator for completely different dimensions of life contributing to general happiness. But it could not account for personal tragedy or disability, and "wealth" would fail as an indicator for "happiness" if, say, the children were killed in an accident. In other words, we need more indicators to capture all important aspects even in this simple case. The fascination with a single indicator has carried over to economics and national development, with a rather bizarre twist: Economists have not focused on per capita wealth (of financial assets, land, or resources), but rather on the rate at which natural resource wealth is being depleted - the faster, the "better". This is the G D P indicator - gross domestic product - the total money value of the overall annual flow of goods and services produced in an economy. This includes all goods and services, irrespective of their contribution to national development: social goods (like education, food, housing) as well as social bads (cost of crime, poilu-
CO2 in atmosphere (state) ~ global temperature (impact) --. Other aggregate indicators include concerns beyond money flows. The U N D P ' s Human Development Indicator (HDI). without a systems-theoretical framework to reflect the operation and viability of the total system. Pilots go through long check lists of indicators before they take off. I would criticize these lists on several counts: (1) They are derived ad hoc. Multiple pressures and impacts are not considered. and waste-disposal demands per person. The most serious objection to this approach is that it neglects the systemic (and dynamic) nature of the processes. blood pressure. It computes the total land area that is required to maintain the food. In this approach. 3 0 r i e n t o r s o f system viability Doctors have a whole set of indicators for determining a patient's health: body temperature. Why not use separate indicators in the first place7 An aggregate indicator that makes physical sense is the Ecological Footprint. or car accidents). per product. This is an excellent summary indicator of environmental impact. G D P is corrected by subtracting (rather than adding) social bads (like the cost ofpollution cleanup. or per city. In an attempt to be more systematic. (3) as a consequence of (1) and (2). includes literacy and life expectancy. energy. the PSIR (pressure. trade balance.could we use it to help us find indicators for healthy. poor health). sustainable development? "Health" means "physical and mental well-being. and is widely applied to sustainable development problems [29. items that cannot be measured in the same units (like money flows).27. This burdens us with two separate tasks: (1) We must develop an approach for identifying indicators of viability of a given system. state. Since. but they cannot remove a fundamental deficiency of aggregate indicators: Aggregation may hide serious deficits in some sectors. and "sparse" or even "empty" in ocher important areas.52].18. The real (usually nonlinear) relationships between the different components of a chain cannot be accounted for (see also Meadows ). But all of them can be related to the viability of a particular system. but it does n o t .48].irrespective of their effect on society . for example. All the indicators are totally different. which actually threaten the overall health of the system.g. they are overly "dense" in some areas (multiple indicators for essentially the same concern). coating on your tongue. i. Foresters have a completely different list for judging the health of a forest.14. and their embedding in a larger total system containing many feedback loops. for example. Bossel / Derivingindicators of sustainable development 195 tion. response) framework has been intro- duced.H. States. (2) they always reflect the specific expertise and research interest of their authors. The conclusion from this brief look at indicator schemes is that none of them is adequate for the purpose defined in the previous section: (1) to provide all essential information about the health (viability) of a system and its rate of change. and (2) we must think about the goal of sustainable development and its ethical implications. in household and community). And aggregate indicators become even more questionable when they require adding apples and oranges (as in the HDI). unemployment rate. some researchers prefer to use more or less extensive lists of indicators covering the proble m area under investigation [51.e. or states in another. each of these goods and services is associated with significant consumption of non-renewable resources. various groups have sought to define aggregate indicators which present a more accurate picture of material well-being [3. and will in most cases not even be an adequate approximation. and adding (rather than ignoring) the value of unpaid services (e. or the (almost) equivalent Sustainable Progress Index (SPI) [33. carbon tax (response). . GPI ). they are not a systematic and "complete" reflection of the system. In response to the deficiencies of the aggregate indicator concept. and vice versa. finding where it hurts. water. (isolated) chains of cause and effect are identified for a particular environmental problem. What is it that they may have in common? And ff they do have something in common .capture the social dimensions of sustainable development.54]. currency exchange rate.and is not meant to .43]. These are important improvements. These are all very different systems whose health (or viability) is important to very different people for very different reasons. of sustainable development). with current technology.g. and (2) to indicate the contribution to the overall objective (e. Hardly an indicator of national wealth and well-being! In response to these obvious shortcomings of the popular GDP. Representation of impact chains by isolated PSIR-chains will usually not be permissible. in order to define the proper weight and attention that must be focused on different systems and indicators . disability. For example: CO2-emissions (pressure) --.later evolved into the Genuine Progress Indicator. G D P is really a measure of how fast resources are squandered and converted into money flows . Economists discuss the "health" of the economy by looking at inflation rate. and other indicators.26. blood and urine tests. and rates of change (stocks and flows) are treated inconsistently. pulse. In the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW . Impacts in one causal chain can be pressures. impact. and generation of environmental pollution. testing your reflexes. In other words. While they are an improvement over the aggregate indicator concept. and corresponding indicators are monitored.
freedom from defect. Let us therefore first determine general properties of system environments. the normal environmental state may gradually or abruptly change to a permanently different normal environmental state. sufficient sunlight is not available in the winter. Variety: The forest environment is affected by day and night. workers. pain. the particular features of that environment must be reflected in its structure and functions. The form of a fish and its mode of motion reflect the laws of fluid dynamics of its aquatic environment. rain and snow. and mountain ecosystems at its edges. customers. Other systems: The behavior of other systems introduces changes into the environment of a given system. Change: In Europe and elsewhere. an industrial company. and behavior. which system orientors have to shape system structure. in India. with urban settlements and transportation systems. In the next section. we could expect their reflections in all systems that have been shaped by their environments.Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development soundness. nutrient supply depending on site properties. Normal environmental state: An industrial company in a small town in Wisconsin has to deal with specific economic. System environments that can be found on earth are characterized by six fundamental environmental properties: (1) normal environmental state. In other words. Example B. This alters the environment of forest ecosystems. say. If a system is to be successful in its environment. Variability: The normal environmental state fluctuates in random ways.1 Properties o f system environments A system can only exist and prosper in its environment if its structure and functions are adapted to that environment. Can we find something like general properties of environments. and develop in its particular environment. Moreover. and living con- . job training. with proper attention to these "orientors". normality of mental and physical functions" (Webster ). And since it is usually the system that has to adapt to its environment. we could design systems to be successful in a given environment [6. changing family size. Change: In the course of time. social. These reflections would orient not just structure and function of systems. all of which can only be secured with considerable effort. logging companies. to live and develop. incomes. Normal environmental state: A Central European forest exists in an environment characterized by a mean annual temperature of about 10 degrees Celsius (range . or a change in government that imposes stricter environmental regulations. loans. animals. electricity. When we talk about a viable system. Other systems: The forest ecosystem has to interact with browsing. and many other different processes. which would help us focus our search for indicators of system viability? 3. Scarce resources: The company needs water. a sudden jump in oil prices. summer and winter. we can expect that the properties of the environment will be reflected in the properties of the system. (2) scarce resources. (3) variety. with agricultural. or pollution due to an industrial accident. but also their behavior in the environment.. Variety: The company has to exist in an environment of various sources of materials and energy. etc. Scarce resources: Resources required for a system's survival are not immediately available when and where needed. etc. a forest ecosystem. And "viable" is defined as "able. be healthy.. competitors. Example A. and technological environments of a company show gradual long-term trends (shifts to service economy. seed-dispersing animals. (4) variability. or disease. Variety: Many qualitatively very different processes and patterns of environmental variables occur and appear in the environment constantly or intermittently.9]. pollinating. Variability: The forest ecosystem may be stressed by unusual frost in early June. And the indicators we are looking for would have to reflect these system interests. and scarce water and nutrients in the soil. Change: The economic.). and with the environment and its properties.8. a stock market crash. There is obviously an immense variety of system environments. i. employees with very different training and pers~ etc" Variability: The company may be hit by a recession. able to take root and grow" (Webster ). river. But could it be that all of these environments have some common general properties? If that were the case. different rules and regulations. a sudden insect pest outbreak. (6) other systems: N o r m a l environmental state: The actual environmental state can vary around this state in a certain range.2 0 to +30~ 800 mm annual rainfall (range: 500 mm to 1100 mm). the climate has changed considerably since the last ice age. (5) change. legal and political environments different from those.196 1-1. raw materials. Scarce resources: The forest ecosystem depends on sunlight. system viability has something to do with both the system and its properties. function. an unexpected competitor. attitudes. cultural (language. and the fluctuations may occasionally take the system far from the normal state. and now there is an accelerating change due to greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere from anthropogenic sources. just as there is an immense variety of systems.e. alternative means of transportation and production. a long drought. schools. we mean that this system is able to survive. and the legal system of a society reflects the social environment in which it developed. we will consider how systems have to respond to these properties. with industries and their pollution. social. The system "interests" that we are trying to define must have something to do with these orientors.
and a storage tank with taps. however. a flooded riverbank. and convert resources effectively and efficiently". "other systems" means other cows and the farmer to the cow. i.9] (1) existence. a grass harvester. we are using an orientor "make sure it can exist in this environment". In thinking about what we are doing. Other systems: The cow must coexist with other organisms who are part of its environment. Normalenvironmentalstate: Temperate climate. and try to define corresponding "design specifications" for the cow. we design it as a sentient being. Sentient being: To make sure the cow avoids hurting itself without noticing it. We also install a cow-reproduction unit.2 Basic orientors To demonstrate the basic idea. or security. and equip the beast with storage tanks for fat to last a couple of weeks. city officials and politicians. cowshed. and finally paint the contraption in a stark. leave the poisonous stuff alone. We look at the properties of its environment.e. So we give it a thick hide to protect it from the rain and hold everything together. Scarce resources: We want the cow to convert grass from unplowable hillsides into lots of milk. integration in the North American and European common markets. We are now applying an orientor "make sure the system is secure even under unusual conditions". It should be able to distinguish between different species of plants. four-hoof drive suitable for any terrain. should know how to flirt with the handsome bull on the other side of the fence. Other systems: The company vitally depends on interactions with. this contraption looks like it could work and function like a cow. or coexistence. the farmer. should run away when a dog chases it. Effectiveness: The system should on balance (over the long-term) be effective (not necessarily efficient) in . at least on paper. Change: Growing up. So we equip it with an extra layer of fur in the winter. So we equip it with horns to keep other animals at a safe distance. What does that teach us? It shows that system orientors can be used as a handy checklist of what is important in and for systems. Having found these fundamental properties of system environments. each property cannot be expressed by any combination of other fundamental properties. Example C. introduction of computers and industrial robots. and other nectar-collecting insects to the bee. let us assume we have to "design" a cow as a viable system for producing milk and meat. We are using an orientor "find. some poisonous. "resources" means grass to the cow. and looks after its calf. or freedom o f action. Scarce resources: Grass and herbs on hillsides. get used to a new herd. Their content is system-specific. flood. Have we forgotten anything? Well. and with a loudspeaker to communicate over large distances. It will probably be clear from the examples that we are indeed discussing very general properties of all system environments. competitors and bankers. with a tail to chase away flies.e. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development 197 ditions. being sold to a different herd. This means respecting an orientor "satisfy the needs for avoiding pain and stress". and put hair on it to give it some insulation. Let us now summarize the basic system orientors and their relationship to the corresponding properties of the system environment [6. Variety: Different plants with different tastes. system interests. let us now determine their orientor counterparts in systems. (2) effectiveness. drought. or existence. Variety: The cow should be able to cope on its own with a variety of different situations. cope with becoming a mother. i. (5) adaptability. and nectar and pollen to the bee. a digester for making milk. or psychological needs. (3)freedom of action.). water in the creek. (4) security. We are now using an orientor "be able to cope with a variety of different situations". Change: The cow must be able to adapt to seasons. or effectiveness. (6) coexistence. These fundamental properties of the environment are each unique. a cow. 3. In discussing societal development and future paths. So we equip it with a computer with considerable learning ability. We are applying an orientor "provide the ability to learn and adapt". and actions of.H. harvest. I have to say something about each of these properties. seasons. and should behave nicely when the farmer sticks the suction cups on its udder. in the meadow environment shared by cows and bees. Normal environmental state: The cow should survive a temperate climate. We have applied the orientor "enable it to coexist with others". rocks. etc. So we have to equip it with 3D-vision.. or adaptability. respects the electric fence. suppliers and customers. etc. without relying on the farmer for advice. The same physical environment presents different environmental characteristics to different systems existing in it. Variability: Weather. For example. such as a snowstorm. the same approach can be used to define system interests for the different affected systems. a drought. Variability: The cow should also be able to survive occasional sudden fluctuations of its normal environment. If I want to describe a system environment fully. should know how to find water and drink it. Existence: Attention to this orientor is necessary to ensure the immediate survival and subsistence of the system in the normal en vironmental state. extend the four-hoof drive by a meter to raise the body to safe level above the ground. Other systems: Other cows and animals. having a calf. meadows. individualized black-and-white pattern so it is easily recognized by others.
4 Some other evidence for orientors and their role The emergence of basic orientors in response to the general properties of environments can be deduced from general systems theory. A deficit in even one of the orientors threatens long-term survival. . and that compensation of deficits of one orientor by over-fulfillment of other orientors is not possible. Note that uniqueness of each of the orientor dimensions does not imply independence of individual orientor satisfactions: For example. Goal functions can be viewed as appearing on a level below the basic orientors in the hierarchical orientation system. political or cultural groups) can often be explained by differences in the relative importance attached to different orientors (i. respiration and transpiration. sociology. In other words. will allow this. and to exert influence on its environment. Adaptability: The system should be able to change its parameters and/or structure in order to generate more appropriate responses to challenges posed by environmental change. We shall come back to this when we derive an indicator set for sustainable development later in this paper.if conditions. 3. as has been done here. the system's development will be constrained by the orientor that is currently "in the minimum". They can be viewed as ecosystem-specific responses to the need to satisfy the basic orientors. or "effectiveness". Particular attention will therefore have to focus on those orientors that are currently deficient. and are then unavailable for the latter. For example. such an approach. better satisfaction of the security orientor may require a sacrifice in freedom of action because financial resources are needed for the former. Freedom o f action: The system must have the ability to cope in various ways with the challenges posed by environmental variety. in particular ecosystems.e.e. Health and fitness of a system require adequate satisfaction of each of the system's basic orientors.e. The system will have to focus its attention on this deficit. Quantification of orientor satisfaction therefore provides a measure for system fitness in different environments. In many systems. but supporting empirical evidence and related theoretical concepts can also be found in such fields as psychology. But that does not mean that "freedom" can be used as a substitute for "security". matter and energy cycling (cycling index). Psychological needs: For sentient beings. "goal functions" are often more immediately obvious than the basic orientors that cause the emergence of these goal functions in the first place.3 Properties of orientors Each of the orientors stands for a unique requirement. This can be done by identifying indicators that can give us information about how well each of the orientors is being fulfilled at a given time. i. hierarchy (signal filtering). and unpredictable conditions outside of the normal environmental state. 3. emphasis on "freedom". or "adaptability") in phase 2 (i. In analogy to Liebig's Principle of the Minimum. has been outlined in considerable detail . That means that a minimum of attention must be paid to each of them. With regard to finding a comprehensive indicator set for ecosystem integrity. a deficit of "freedom of action" in a society cannot be compensated by a surplus of "security". Obviously. we deal with a two-phase assessment process where each phase is different from the other: Phase 1: First. and will therefore have a better chance for long-term survival and sustainability . Characteristic differences in the behavior ("life styles". Coexistence: The system must be able to modify its behavior to account for behavior and orientors of other (actor) systems in its environment.198 H. and actions in societal systems must therefore always reflect at least the handful of basic orientors (or derived criteria) simultaneously. material and energy flow intensities (networks). Ecosystem goal functions emerge as general ecosystem properties in the coevolution of ecosystem and environment. a certain minimum satisfaction must be obtained separately for each of the basic orientors. diversity (organisation). Security: The system must be able to protect itself from the detrimental effects of environmental variability. Planning. the system equipped for securing better overall orientor satisfaction will have better fitness. storage capacity (biomass accumulation). in particular other systems. They translate the fundamental system needs expressed in the basic orientors into concrete goals linking system response to environmental properties. the basic orientors provide us with a checklist for asking the right questions for finding out how well a system is doing in its environment. Major ecosystem goal functions are (according to Miiller ): Maximization of: use of solar radiation. or of humans or human systems (organizations. fluctuating. based on ecosystem "goal functions". Phase 2: Only if the required minimum satisfaction of all basic orientors is guaranteed is it permissible to try to raise system satisfaction by improving satisfaction of individual orientors further . we must add psychological needs as an additional orientor. decisions. after minimum requirements for all basic orientors have been satisfied in phase 1) . or "security". nutrient conservation. "life strategies") of organisms. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development its efforts to secure scarce resources from. Comprehensive assessments of system behavior and development must also be multi-criteria assessments. and the study of artificial life. variable. In the orientation of system behavior.
self-respect. freedom. Basic orientor Existence Subsistence Effectiveness Freedom of action Security Adaptability Coexistence Psychological needs Ethical orientation Emotion iforientor is threatened fear of death hunger. isolation. feeling well feeling of accomplishment relief. From the point of view of orientation theory. Animats are artificial creatures that learn to live and cope in a fairly complex computer world. has found wide acceptance in the research community dealing with scenario studies of societal development . We call them "innovator" and "organizer". defamation. hate. and the fatalist just tries to secure his existence in whatever circumstances he finds himself in. curiosity. envy. The authors of cultural theory explain this grouping in terms of two dimensions: "group". the hierarchist tries to gain security by regulation and institutionalized authority. coexistence). They are usually the important movers and shakers of societal development. lightness feeling sheltered. Basic orientors  existence. and hermits. value-guided lifestyles in their two-dimensional computer world. Also. what about real people in the real world? In recent years. they use genetic algorithms to develop and learn efficient rules to find "food" and avoid "obstacles". powerlessness self-doubt. while the organizer concentrates on effectiveness.committing to psychiatric ward Ethical orientation religious prohibition. These value dimensions emerge in the animat's cognitive system as it gradually learns to cope with its environment. cultural theory . leisure freedom protection creation joyofHfe satisfaction. It identifies five types of individuals in the social world. then we can expect them to be reflected in our emotions. two life-styles are missing from this list: those corresponding to orientor emphasis on "adaptability" and "effectiveness". 8]. security.identity If basic orientors are indeed the consequence of adaptation to general environmental properties. irresponsibility Emotion if orientor is satisfied Table 3 Basic orientors reflected in psychological and social needs. Bossel/ Deriving indicators of sustainable development 199 Table I Basic orientors reflected in emotions. One can find solid evidence of the basic orientors even in computer experiments with "animats" simulating the evolution of intelligence in artificial life . thirst. p. awakening love. The egalitarian stresses partnership in coexistence with others. intolerance. of novelty. individualists. Mimicking evolution. fear impatience. . but they cannot be adequately explained by the two-dimensional grid/group categorization of cultural theory (table 4). declaring as outlaw censorship. withholding or falsifying information exile. responsibility psychologicalneeds participation affection. effectiveness. at least to my mind. order. adaptability. mental duress this artificial intelligence evolves differently in different animats. meaning degree of social group integration. unreliability. In his work on "human scale development". The innovator stresses the basic orientor adaptability. self-confidence. The autonomous hermit is of no practical relevance to the social system. hnmiliation futility. revolt anxiety. fatalists. MaxNeef has classified human needs according to several categories which can be mapped on the basic orientors (table 3) . frustration defiance. the individualist tries to keep his freedom by staying free from control by others and the "system". is that different orientor emphasis explains the different life-styles. friendship confidence meaning. liberation. but are basic system requirements emerging from a system's interaction with its environment. This is indeed the case (table 1) . If even animats evolve different. A more plausible explanation. separation from family. professional bans jail arbitrary justice. each having characteristic and distinct value orientation and life-style: egalitarians. expulsion destruction ofidentity. we find that all societies have developed methods of punishment by selective basic orientor deprivation (table 2) . The differences can be traced back to different emphases on basic system orientors (existence.H. Basic orientor Existence Subsistence Effectiveness Freedom of action Security Adaptability Coexistence Psychological needs Punishment by basic orientor deprivation execution starvation censure. reliability. But Table 2 Basic orientors reflected in punishment. which deals with the typology of ways of life. boredom jealousy. These experiments in artificial life show that values are not subjective inventions of the human mind. resulting in different life-styles. inferiority complex. referring to degree of external regulation [50. subsistence effectiveness freedom of action security adaptability coexistence Psychologicad+social needs  subsistence understanding. and therefore of fundamental importance to the viability of individuals. hierarchists. and "grid". safe joy of learning. solidarity. pain irritation. uncertainty.
see below)? Not if we have made a commitment to sustainability. This is not saying that these systems must be accorded the same status as humans. In other words. Do we really have to figure out all the impacts of our everyday actions on other systems. van Asselt and Rotmans [l]). It merely recognizes that these systems each play an important role in the development of the whole system. indicators of the state of the environment or natural resources. and even survival. as in grazing or predator-prey food chains.19.31. etc. Depending on which of the major types (egalitarian. animals that can experience pain) have been included in discussions of ethics [4. This is a tall order. if a society does not care about its effect on the environment or on the chances of future generations. and that therefore their "interests" must be considered (and corresponding indicators must be watched). different decisions will be made in a society.42. This is a fundamental ethical choice. Show me your indicator list. we cannot escape an ethical choice. Make your ecological footprints as light as possible. For example.41.200 Table 4 Basic orientors reflected in life styles. and do not burden it with more than is unavoidable. they may have no choice but to destroy other systems or organisms in order to survive. or not. introduction of high-risk technologies and toxic compounds. You may live in a society that gives you no choice but to drive two hours to and from work each day in a gas-guzzling car. a study of the whole range of possible developments requires analyses of different life-style scenarios (cf. From a systems and sustainability point of view. Does this mean. 34. systems often compete for resources. hierarchist. and I will tell you what your ethics are! Traditionally.5. we can use a simple rule to guide us: "Sufficiency".22. Since we cannot know which of the cultural types will dominate in a society in future. individualist) is dominant. food. and that each of these views is equally legitimate. This is unsustainable. Ethics is concerned with the relative weight of these interests in human decision-making. creation of irreversible environmental change. and we are therefore responsible for our actions. animate and inanimate. but. ethics has dealt exclusively with humans and their interactions.49]. for one thing.44-47.human. for major societal decisions we have to. or whose people are starving as a consequence of the terms of trade forced on it b y the global market.hence discounting is out of the question. and corresponding management styles with each of their cultural types. we have knowledge of what we are doing. This has direct consequences for the indicator set we are looking for: It has to include indicators for the systems we care about. destruction of cultural accomplishments. and so is discounting of other interests of future component systems of the total system that is to be sustained . materials. for example. water. if we want to act responsibly? The practical answer to this is that. which assigns a negligible value to resources left for future generations (and hence to their interests. and we have to adopt an ethical framework for our actions. yes. for everyday individual decisions. we usually imply that there can be different views about the relative importance of something. now and in the future. A society focusing entirely on national interest would not "see" the plight of a neighbor whose lakes and forests are poisoned by its pollution. and would not even observe. destruction of ecosystems and landscapes. and applying the . When we say that something is a "question of ethics". depletion of resources. Ethics should have something to say on issues like eradication of species. that we should accept as "ethical" the discounting of the future practiced by economists. advantages. it would not pay attention to. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development 4.e.17. we do not. reduction of options for future generations. this is still totally inadequate. Even more dramatic. But being conscious beings. sentient. We therefore have to discuss ethics before we can define an indicator set for societal development. We must assume that resources will be as important to them as they are to us . Do not take more from your (natural and social) environment than you really need. disappearance of indigenous cultares.30. resulting in different development paths. we can visualize its implications for other beings and systems. 4 Coexistence o f systems: The need for ethics In a world of limited resources (energy. and it implies proper consideration of the interests of future generations. humans cannot be exempt from this fact of life. animate.20.1 A necessary extension of ethics external regulation orientor emphasis coexistence security freedom existence (autonomy) adaptability effectiveness high high low low autonomous (low?) (high ?) low high low high autonomous (low?) (high?) The authors of cultural theory associate certain characteristic views of nature. we usually have the choice between different possible actions. cultural type egalitarian hierarchist individualist fatalist hermit innovator organizer social integration H. The ethical choice for sustainability therefore demands sufficient regard for the interests of all component systems. For everyday individual decisions. time). no. Even with the best of intentions. It is only recently that "sentient beings" (i.
and its own ultimate end at the apex. and sharing the same global environment and resource base (figure 2). rail lines. Society as a whole must make alternatives available (fuel-efficient vehicles. thus implying that nature is there to serve the ultimate end.2 Ultimate end and ethical frameworks An ethical framework provides normative guidance. viability. "Human happiness" or "Serving the will of God" are examples for ultimate ends. (2) If we start with the ethical choice for sustainable development and try to break it down into practical ethical criteria for decision-making. but for what? It must serve an ultimate end. or "system integrity". settlement patterns that do not separate residential areas from places of employment). We therefore find an unexpected connection between ethics and the systems view: (1) If we start with a systems view. trying to identify the role and importance of all component systems for the sustainable development of the total system. . One popular model relates natural wealth (as the "ultimate means") to human happiness (as the "ultimate end") in a hierarchy of human institutions: technology. Figure 2. and evolutionary development". This anthropocentric model is a misleading. and we have to look into the matter more carefully. It should not be used. This should make us suspicious.biosphere. economy. This needs "major societal decisions" requiring more analysis and evaluation than a guideline of"sufficiency" can provide. We have to at least try to assess their role and function in the total system. emergent) ultimate end (goal) like "survival. but better description. each with its own system of orientors. politics. Both of these do not say anything about nature. even conservative politiciansand industrialistsin most parts of the world would not agree with this anthropocentric view any more. for example. A model relating natural wealth as the ultimate means to human happiness as the ultimate end.are subsystems of the global system. The top of each triangle symbolizes the normative system (or orientor hierarchy) of each system. anthroposphcr9 and abiolic environment and resources as interdependent and coevolving subsystems of the total global system. This is the task of systems analysis. Nowadays. Now what are the ultimate ends at the apex of each of the triangles? Of course. the natural and the global system do not have a (human) consciousness. and it can only serve one ultimate end if it is to be consistent. and in fact dangerous framework (as should by now be evident from the environmental consequences of human activity). we find that ethical criteria must be developed and applied to protect the interests of the various component systems contributing to the total system. we can infer an (implicit. Figure 2 should make clear that although action under human control has a significant influence on the natural (and the global) system. the "ultimate end" is at its apex. 4. Such decisions call for sufficient regard for the interests of all component systems. and (abiotic) environment. anthroposphere. (re)action by biosphere and environment is of equal importance. and (corresponding) ethics (figure 1) .H. A stillvery aggregate. or "perpetuity of life". we find that we cannot accomplish this without fairly detailed systems studies that also take into account the dynamics of development. The net result is coevolutionary development of the global system (anthroposphere plus biosphere plus resources and environment). but from their development during the past four (or more) billion years (successful survival and evolution). A model visualizing biosphere. would be to visualize biosphere and anthroposphere (the human system) as two partly separate but interacting systems. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development 201 guideline of "sufficiency" to the daily commute would not help much. now and in the future. These three interacting systems . Something similar Figure 1. not even for political-tactical reasons (such as attracting votes).
see below). causing others to disappear completely. in all cases the system has to pay minimum attention to the basic orientors ((1) existence. This is also not a viable systems approach. (6) coexistence). It also protects future systems from exploitation by the present generation. this approach is not viable when the anthroposphere is part of the whole system. but exploitation of people and resources in a "successful" business. and the global system. in particular the natural. but not as an individual. it may be an emergent ultimate goal function of any living. But interests of other systems can be reflected in a wide range of ethical frameworks. As conscious systems. and unique systems like ecosystems. Fortunately. (3) Evolutionary fitness: The fittest protect themselves . almost simultaneously. (5) adaptability. and global systems. Major candidates for accomplishing this with very different consequences for the three systems are the following: (1) Anthropocentric: Protect only that which is of (direct or indirect) use to humans. and we do not have to get bogged down in it in order to pursue our practical problem of saving the planet while we still can. this approach cannot guarantee sustainability. works of art. This is not a viable systems approach. and share available resources equitably. across all religious and political persuasions. force us to adopt some ethical framework with respect to dealing with the biosphere which would guarantee sustainability . You can be consistent within each normative system and role. and/or reincarnation. It is an altogether different question how this ultimate end (call it"sustainability" now) has come about. tells me that we may indeed be talking about an ultimate end about which there is general agreement. The ultimate end does not at all establish how it should be achieved. or permanence. (The fact that the concepts of "sustainability" and "sustainable development" have become so widely accepted in all parts of the world. It would lead to irreversible losses of system functions and future options. the human. natural. This principle protects the mosquito (or chicken) as a species. If minima are satisfied. and an inclusion of the interests of the natural and future world (and its systems and spe- . the human species may have a distinct disadvantage in the long run. now and in the future. and hence are responsible for what they are doing (or neglect to do). Depending on your current role you may apply love and partnership in the family. "sustainability" may be a prescription to "use means in the way that best serves God . systems may differ in stressing any of the basic orientors over others in their development paths. by caring for. and learning about Creation" (H. It does not account for the vastly different system roles of different species (including the human) in the global system. Bossei / Deriving indicators of sustainable development must hold for the anthroposphere: Implicit in most individual and collective action is a quest for continuity of the human enterprise. then. permanence of culture or ethnic identity). Since we cannot know all implications of our actions in the global system. or system integrity. based on different ultimate ends. It protects individual conscious beings (humans. there are many possibilities. (4) Partnership: Protect all unique systems for their intrinsic value. Remember how people used to fight over goals like "socialism" or "capitalism"?). Note that there can be only one ultimate end if the normative system is to be consistent and if ethical choice is to be determinate. or continuation of the evolutionary process. they cannot avoid including (or purposely neglecting) the "interests" (= basic orientors) of other systems in their decision calculus. We can allow any number of possible cosmologies to determine this ultimate end of "sustainability".. What is important: This is a separate discussion. However. developing as a consequence of evolutionary system processes .too bad for all the others. humans can visualize impacts of their actions. people and human organizations at all levels often use different normative systems.. While ensuring viability for the biosphere (where it does not protect from species extinction and many other "cruelties of nature"). protecting. giving all subsystems the chance to contribute to the development of the whole (Partnership Principle . can make choices. evolving system.202 1t. as orientation theory points out. In particular. Advantages of comparative fitness will favor some of these different paths over others. or something like this) is the ultimate end of each (living) system. Daly. and human culture. that (what might be called) sustainability (or sustainable development. including psychological needs if applicable. dolphins?). It implies a sharing of resources. However. For some. and hence may reflect the "will of God". and irrespective of human interests. plus the limiting finite rates of resource use permitted under sustainability. (2) Biocentric: Protect every species (and even individuals?) for their own intrinsic value.in general. it has no bearing on the definition of indicators. private communication). This could only lead to sustainable development if human impacts are reduced to (very slow) rates compatible with rates of evolution which is impractical: Human processes are much faster than evolutionary processes. even permanence (belief in eternal life. and hence many different paths that system development can take to achieve the ultimate end. I suspect that against the interests of some 20 million species. (3) freedom of action. gorillas. The ultimate end of "sustainability" in the human. plus immutable physical laws and constraints. (4) security. Let me submit. reaching from crass egotism to altruism. but not by applying them simultaneously to the same context. whales?. For others. for example. the definition of indicators is not affected by how we answer it. fairness in sports and traffic. (2) effectiveness.
even if this occa- .currently living humans or human organizations only . More importantly.individual or corporate . human or non-human. Obviously. each human actor . they are shaped by his or her particular relationship to the total system. compassion. I think there is enough evidence that most people would prefer a system where they are treated fairly even if powerless. As long as human action could not significantlyaffect such component systems. political ideology. The adoption of a particular fundamental ethical principle therefore has far-reaching consequences. " This extension to a much greater number of systems than would appear in the ethical horizon of the utilitarian complicates things on the one hand. while the "equal fight" simplifies things enormously on the other hand: it means that available resources are fairly shared according to needs. and "sense of the whole". but would focus on the relative "needs" of the different component systems. If we have made that fundamental choice the bounds of normative standards follow from the fundamental ethical principle. and since the individual "pursuit of happiness" has . Since this was true until recently. This ethical framework encompasses aspects of love. or of (non-human or future) component systems that may have fundamental importance but are taken for granted (ecosystems. future sustainable society.that we must briefly consider. popularized half-baked economic theory. individualistic utilitarian ethics has been elevated to the status of the "fight" ethics by neoclassical economic theoreticians. but imply a continuous coevolutionary dynamic development process that can proceed along many different sustainabl e paths. For example.are accorded ethical respect on utilitarian grounds ("what has he done for meT'. or threaten the total system. or for reasons of kinship (care for children or parents). 71] is that "All systems that are sufficiently unique and irreplaceable have an equal right to present and future existence anddevelopment. If partnership ethics are adopted. "Sustainability" and "partnership" as a normative foundation leave an enormous choice of future paths for human society and the global system. but otherwise individual ethical assessments cannot differ very much in this scheme of ethics: the question can be decided by reference to objective criteria. they do not imply a particular shape and form era static. and at the same time protect the human system. '" Other actors . 4. Where individual normative conclusions do not agree (because actor X values his or her own interests much higher than those of actor Y. 70] is to "Act in such a way that the direct and indirect results of your action have a high probability of producing the greatest net benefit for you. The rule [7. p. If anthropocentric utilitarian ethics are adopted. The standards are no longer completely open to choice.3 Two competing sets of ethics and their consequences "Ethical choice" means adoption of a fundamental ethical principle from which other normative standards can be derived. There may be debate about whether a system is "sufficiently unique and irreplaceable" to warrant ethical protection. The rule [10. certain modes of behavior follow as a logical consequence. respect. advertisement. and Y does the same in reverse). the relentless onslaught of scientific half-truths. For each. More troubling. the normative conclusions of different actors will not normally be in agreement in this ethical framework. p.assigns greatest ethical weight to herself or himself.H. I think it is the only viable systems approach to sustainability that can restrain the threat posed by the anthroposphere for the whole global system.indeed often contributed to the economic welfare of many. environment). under this ethical framework the ethics of individual actors cannot reflect the interests of the whole system. economic competition implies disagreement about who should collect the spoils of a struggle for resources.until recently . and the success stories of yuppies. living or non-living. and from the relationships in the system. This removes a good deal of controversy: Debate about possible actions would not be tainted by conflicts of interest and power.in particular for the choice of an indicator set . Let us focus on the two ethical frameworks that are the most relevant for our future. In particular. "what can she do to me?"). Moreover. As a result. And actual or potential power therefore determines utilitarian ethics and corresponding behavior. if the normative system is to be consistent. or for patriotic reasons ("the nation"). the results of ethical assessments will differ from one actor to the next. stockbrokers and entrepreneurs have lent so much credence to this scheme of ethics that most people are afraid to admit to occasional bouts of altruism or other outmoded unselfish failings of human nature. ethical considerations are extended to all present and future component systems. Some would think this to be totally unrealistic given what they believe to be "human nature". such anthropocentric ethics could be tolerated by nature and human society. The economic system we have built has caused us to adopt a system of ethics that is incompatible with sustainability. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development 203 cies) in the decision calculus of humans and the human system (including legal fights and protection!). the only means of conflict resolution is the exertion of power. Competition would cease if competitors would all feel obliged to assist the most needy before turning to their own (less urgent) needs. A timber corporation will come to a different conclusion about the fate of a forest than an indigenous tribe living on its resources.
and the principles deriving from it. Early in life. or the species that provides no useful product are irrelevant to my decisions. In traffic. species and ecosystems.within his or her framework of rationality. These will usually guide their actions in a consistent manner. If they can not . We know that they work. their behavior is interpreted as being "rational". while others do not.for example . When we try to understand why some accept . In other words. selfish behavior will not be tolerated for long. Billions of dollars and enormous human effort were wasted on nuclear and space technologies at the expense of solar and renewable energy technologies. The tree is quite healthy.the destruction of rain forests as rational. If not. The anthropocentric and egocentric Judeo-Christian heritage has much to do with this framework of rationality. sell the timber. Meanwhile. we have a responsibility to consider its interests in our decisions. Any economist worth his or her salt will "prove" the logic of that to you . In other words. having an effect on them. or as members of a social group or club. Should we not be selective and cultivate those systems with "promising futures" at the expense of others? But we have failed in such efforts before. and that requires maintaining the "seed bank" of available systems and approaches for potential future use. In that world it is "rational" (and in fact "prudent") to cut down a rain forest. for other people. This may seem a luxury that humanity in its environmental predicament can ill afford. put the money in the bank. I have every right to use every living or non-living thing in my environment as I see fit. They should solve their own problems.you do not need a central authority to tell you when. or when meeting with friends. organisms. It is seldom realized by those who are quick to make such distinctions that "rationality" is always relative to accepted norms. as long as the cost-benefit balance is in my favor. or while driving a car. and (2) the equivalence of natural resource capital and bank accounts. The Principle of Partnership simplifies things further by making no distinction with respect to the relative importance of a component system for the total system. Under utilitarian ethics. and draw an interest rate which is higher than the value of the forest's timber production rate: A truly "sustainable resource" that will produce "rent" long after the clear-cut areas have turned into desert. (real or corporate) "persons" living in the present are at the center of attention. I can ignore their welfare. it is completely rational. while ecologically sounder agricultural practices were neglected. where. and should be applied to all decisions affecting the future. making their likely behavior even in novel situations predictable and calculable for others. Clearly. partnership principles dominate. Here is how the argument is used to determine the "value" of the future: Assume you have inherited a piece of land with a beautiful large oak tree on it. They are generally accepted determinants of behavior. for the conditions and remaining options of the future. If they stay within that generally accepted framework of principles. These may not be "rational" in some other (ethical) frame of reference. each "person" is the center of its own attention. but you only worry about drivers and traffic at a greater distance if you are blocking the road. In all of these situations. we have to search for the general principles guiding their judgment. family and society "socialize" them to adopt general principles of behavior. and that also appears in other religious or philosophical constructs. This brings us to an important concept that determines much of what happens under utilitarian ethics: discounting of the future. This determines the framework of rationality. and that they enhance the quality of our lives. Modern economic "science" has tried to solidify the foundations in true alchemist fashion by postulating (I) the substitutability (and hence inexhaustibility) of natural resources. Sustainable development means maintaining a maximum of future options. The future beyond my lifetime. Furthermore. and how to drive.204 H. This framework has been partly built on ignorant interpretations of the natural world around us. but it is of course merely a codification of a world view that precedes that heritage. that attitude has consequences for the use of resources. and it therefore stands on shaky grounds. But traffic would be utter disaster if it would have to operate on the competitive principle. this system of partnership and shared responsibility works . In terms of neoclassical economics. sustainability means preservation and encouragement of diversity. The Principle of Partnership helps to maintain a maximum of diversity with a minimum of conflict. Those who find this idea utopian should reflect for a moment on the ethical principles they apply in their family. It merely means that if our actions are likely to affect one of them. we tend to classify it as "irrational". . Why then should we let this principle determine our lives and our future? 5 Discounting the future? People tend to be consistent in what they are doing. So why not extend them to the rest of the world. Others count only insofar as they have an influence on me. the foreigner I will never meet.too bad for them. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development sionally means surrendering privileges to others in greater need. these principles are already part of our lives. Intensive agriculture has become the most energy-inefficient and resource-wasting technology humankind ever utilized for producing food. even if economists tell us otherwise? Application of the partnership principle does not mean that we have to look out after all of these "sufficiently unique and irreplaceable systems" all the time. It is like driving in city traffic: You make sure you are not endangering other drivers next to you.
new things. I should not pay more than $ 912 now to prevent it (assuming again the 7 percent interest rate). Economists are not blind. you try to assess the present value of several options: (1) Fell and sell this year. dikes would never have been built in the Netherlands. If you fell and sell this year. you would not have earned the 7 percent interest on $1000 that you could have earned if you had cut it today. One arrives at totally different rational conclusions if one values future uses just as much as present uses (no discounting of the future).) If one accepts the principle of discounting future uses. (4) in a hundred years. but will not have grown much beyond its present size. and letting it draw interest at 7 percent. and pump oil fields dry now . In other words. For lower interest rates. $ 4055 in 20 years. it would cause $1 million damage in a hundred years. Otherwise.e. and if one accepts the laws of physics. You would have $ 2014 in ten years. This weighting of relative interests merely depends on my own accidental "distance" to others in space or time. fish industries collapsing. If we want the whole to function then. on which you could draw interest from now on.) And would not your grand-grandchildren love to be millionaires instead of having that messy tree in the yard? (Never mind that you are using the $1000 to buy a new stereo. You know that you can invest money at an assured interest rate of seven percent per year.096. 91 cents(l) if felled in 100 years. worthwhile. Our grandchildren willcurse us for this "rationality". This framework will not allow sustainable solutions. With this mindset. and oil resources have disappeared there will be other. the value to you n o w for selling the timber in 10 years would be $ 500. Sustainability does not allow discounting. This belief in substitutability comes in handy when someone questions the wisdom of discounting to practically nothing the value of future uses. and it would also be worth $1000. fish populations. and it destroys the resource base for sustainability. Once the money is in the bank. It is causing governments and corporations to fell rain forests.39]. Indeed. and the interests of far-away people or exotic bird species count next to nothing to me. if you are an economically responsible being (I hope you are not). and we should not do anything about climate change. according to standard economic reasoning.115 in 50 years. the discounted value would not fall quite as rapidly. This framework will be necessary for sustainability (c.in the future. In other words.. But that does not worry them because they have discovered a new "law" that physicists and chemists must have overlooked: "Whenever a resource becomes scarce. and - . It has nothing to do with the actual importance of each "subsystem" for the total system. You would just get the $1000 then. Its timber would be worth $1000. A given ecosystem today is worth as much to the functioning of the whole as it will be in a hundred. and biology that constrain substitutability. you have no rational choice but to chop grandpa's oak tree down now and put the $1000 in the bank at 7 percent interest. That reduces the current value of the tree very quickly: to $ 250 if felled in 20 years. that means $1000 in the bank. the discounted value of the future is halved every ten years. for example. The partnership mindset derives its driving principles from the realization that biosphere and anthroposphere are coupled to each other and influence each other. Should we call that "rational"? In this scheme of things. it will still be there in a hundred years. and the "law of substitutability". If that is not "sustainable management of resources"! (Bankers will claim it is. or a million years. clean out fishing grounds. I would irrationally give up my "right to consumption". environmental protection and prevention of pollution only make sense if their future-discounted benefits to me would be greater than the present day costs. which you will throw away in a few years. (2) in ten years.) The logic of discounting is very pervasive. the more rational). My interests are paramount.f. Let us assume there is no inflation. For an interest rate of 3. $ 33. If. our children and grandchildren will be so much richer! (Remember the doubling of the bank account every ten years. And with all that growth of the economy. They see rain forests disappearing. To find out what to do with the tree. chemistry.1t. I would pay up to $1 million n o w to prevent it.on today's market. those of family members are important. if an environmental disaster would cause $ 1 million in damages now. If you cut the tree ten years from now. we cannot have discounters tell us that it would be irrational to be concerned about its future. But you could also have gotten $1000 by just putting $ 500 in the bank now. but the interests of fellow compatriots in another social class count little.the sooner the better (i. for a seven percent interest rate. you have a "sustainable resource" with constant interest stream.633) in a hundred years. For the interest rate I have chosen (7 percent)." This belief is reminiscent of the dream of alchemists to turn rocks into gold. it applies similar "discounting" with respect to "social distance". and we will have so much more money in the bank to afford them. but they are only "rational" within that framework of thinking. $ 30 if felled in 50 years. thousand. (3) in fifty years. however. The anthropocentric utilitarian mindset not only discounts the interests of future generations according to their distance in time. Howard and Norgaard [23-25]). What if rain for- ests.5 percent per year. one can arrive at logical conclusions. economists will "prove" to you that this would be "irrational" [38. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development 205 As oak trees go.. So. and more than a million dollars ($ 1. oil fields going dry. and no more messing with unreliable real resources and all their problems. the tree would have a current worth of $ 30 if felled in 100 years. technology will find a substitute.
simple and crude indicators for rough estimates.e. in the present and in the future. However. It includes a fair representation of the interests of all the systems whose fates are linked in the development of the total system. Similarly. and for whose future we are responsible. It is not possible to trade or even compare. the environment. development. and its own interests compel it to be concerned for their sustainability. Here is what remains to be done: (1) We have to be clear about the ultimate end . species. in the spirit of the slogan "We have borrowed the earth from our children". religion. and (2) how does each sector system contribute to the viability (the basic orientors) ofthe total system? (5) The indicators should be clearly and unambiguously defined. gender. and that each of the respective orientors has to be satisfied separately. without differentiation by region. for sustainability. For a more systematic analysis and comparison of regional developments. evolving system. several indicators may have to be defined. They can have qualitative ("sufficient". and that the products of this creative process have value in their own right. we must strive for ensuring their future existence. They should offer a hierarchy of specificity. (3) We have to develop sufficient knowledge about what sector systems we have to include in the "total system" (definition of total system boundary). But we have found earlier that the interests of systems (as represented by their orientors) are always multidimensional. The natural environment cannot be viewed as a (supposedly infinite) source of resources. income. This holistic view is one of partnership with each other. (I) With respect to the natural environment.our reason for being concerned in the first place. If we take a more anthropocentric point of view. It does not allow any "temporal discounting" of the future. monetary units are used. the realization of system dependence does not allow any "spatial discounting" of systems farther removed from our attention. . And "partnership" means dealing with these system partners in a spirit of equity. The sustainability postulate does not come out of thin air. 6. and the results can be aggregated to numbers like the gross national product (GNP). and could then be added up to some representative value. "insufficient") or quantitative measures. today and in the future. other concurrent systems. Even if we leave human interests out of this. and ecosystems. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development from the premise that this combined system should be sustainable. or whose fate we influence or control in some way. or education. and evolution. (2) We have to adopt an ethical framework to guide our relationship with other (animate and inanimate) systems on whom we depend. a "partnership ethic" is the most inclusive and appropriate ethic.e. If we value these. I have argued above that "sustainability" is a proper shorthand label for the ultimate end we are pursuing.not competition. i. race.206 H. say. (3) With respect to future systems. fairness. numerical indicators would be required. Note that these questions can be adequately answered without an extensive data base of numerical indicators by people with a good knowledge of the systems involved. and in particular progress in sustainable development. satisfaction of each basic orientor of that system)?. we arrive at the same conclusion: Humankind is dependent on the natural systems of its environment. a lack of personal freedom with an overabundance of food. we may want to acknowledge that nature is a living. This would be possible if all indicators could be defined in the same units. i. it means respecting the right of existence and development of future generations.e. and about their role and function in the development of the total system. 6 Constructing a system o f indicators for sustainable development We have now collected all the tools we need for constructing a system of indicators for assessing the viability of systems. The sustainability postulate has a most important consequence: It compels us to concede as much importance to future systems as to present systems. wealth. it is possible to aggregate and simplify in another way: If all orientors are in a satisfactory state. not exploitation.1 A scheme for asking the right questions The general scheme of questions to which the indicator system must provide answers is given in table 5. if necessary. Note that the different indicators cannot readily be combined into one number describing the current state of "sustainability". In many applications it will therefore not be necessary to wait until an expensive and time-consuming data collection effort gets under way. but rests on the intrinsic value of the processes and products of natural evolution and of human cultural evolution. Let us spell out in more detail what an ethic based on the sustainability postulate and the partnership principle implies. and future systems. From a systems point of view. political conviction. and justice . (2) With respect to human systems. it means respecting the right to equitable treatment for all living humans. (4) For each of the sector systems we have to find indicators in each orientor category that can answer two sets of questions: (1) what is the viability of each sector system (i. but must be viewed as "life space" on which our existence depends. which can be substantiated by more precise and specific quantitative indicators. It must be applied to each of the sector systems. If more detail is required. In purely economic studies. it means acknowledging species and ecosystems as systems having their own identity and right to existence.
without having to measure a set of indicators. income distribution and class structure. family and life planning horizon. proC Is it compatible Does it contribute to tection of ecological and cultural heritage). is vital to the development of the total system. The term "healthy".Individual development (civil liberties and Effectiveness efficient7 the effective and effihuman rights. specialization. political participation and S Is it secure. old age provisions) E Is it effective and Does it contribute to H . protection of species. democracy. leisure and Action to respond and ofthe total system7 recreation) react as needed7 G .H. rights of future generations. international).he total regional system. right to work. system7 commerce and trade.G o v e r n m e n t (government and administration..Economic system (production and consumption. public finances and taxes. waste disposal. if all interests of the system are adequately cared sector systems represents a component of "capital" that for. These sector systems are all essential parts of the anthroposphere. In other words. In this case we do not have "capital" is used to denote a stock of a vital asset. future (environmenAdaptability new challenges7 the flexibility and adaptability of the tal protection laws and policies. education and training. social security. Major linkages of the six sector subsystems oft. but only concentrate on the "red lights". equity. food. resource extraction poltotal system? icy and practice.Resources. material stanF Does it have the Does it contribute to dard of living. A useful distinction of sector subsystems is the following: I . supply system (energy. health services. protection of renewable resources. and stability of the human rights policy. The major relationships between the six sector systems are shown in figure 3. . gender and class-specific role. safe. we do not have to deal with the immense "control panel" of indicators all of the time.Social system (population development. Existence viable? Can it tribute its specific exist7 share to existence science. market and interregional trade) P Is it compatible Does it contribute to S . population and immigration poltotal system7 icy. crime control. Does it contribute to Security stable7 the security. goods. We may even have sufficient proof from other evidence that the system is "healthy". or "sustainable". technology policy) A Can it a d a p t to Does it contribute to R . environment. services). 6. ethnic Psychological with psychological the psychological Needs needs and culture? well-being of people7 composition. water. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development Table 5 General scheme for finding subsystem indicators. individual autonomy and selfcient operation of determination. international assistance policy.Infrastructure (settlements and cities. then we can simply state that the system is "viable". what the reasons are. safety. social integration and parthe total system? ticipation. labor and employment. and then finding solutions to the existing problems. much as a good doctor or farmer will be able to "see" how "healthy" a patient or a crop is. we must first identify the different relevant sectors of the societal sys- Figure 3. research and development) and viability of total E . medicalcare.2 Developing a set of sustainability indicators Applying this approach to defining an indicator set for the assessment of societal development. transportaOrientor Subsystem Contribution to total performance system (region) tion and distribution. 207 tem. Each of these i. qualification. legal system. X Is the system Does subsystem concommunication and media.e. Sustainability assessments therefore often reduce to finding which of the affected systems are (currently) not sustainable. adult Freedom of necessary freedom the freedom of action education. conflict resolution (national. which to bother giving all the numerical details of the indicators we used to arrive at that conclusion. Coexistence with interacting the compatibility of This is not an ad hoc sector classification of the total subsystems7 the total system with its partner systems'? system.
M material resources indicators. the possibilities for individual development. Q qualification indicators. and hence also to that of the total system. Figure 4. but negatively to "security" of the natural system. Indicators are numbered consecutively in each of these categories. Basic orientor deficits are therefore "red lights" that demand immediate attention. Moreover. Social capital denotes something less tangible: the ability to deal constructively with social processes. There are always two sets of orientor questions to be answered (table 5): (1) What does the current state of the sector system imply for the integrity. and management. and sustainability of the total system7 This orientor assessment approach is shown schematically in figure 4. culture. resources. O organizational indicators. There may be other indicators that are easier to obtain. W welfare and social condition indicators. Other indicators can be chosen in their place if found to be more appropriate. It is obvious from these categories that our list of indicators of sustainable development reaches beyond the indicator sets proposed elsewhere (which focus on environment. energy. "High production growth". Infrastructure capital denotes the stock of built structures like cities. they may have very different implications in different contexts. and economic conditions. and must be maintained in good state in order to contribute its share to the development of the total system. and marketing facilities. is vital for effective resource use (natural and human) for the benefit of the total system. The important point is that the chosen indi- . distribution. as manifest in the know-how and performance standards of government. schools and universities. roads. It is the accumulated result of tradition. The indicators chosen should be understood as suggestions. Table 7 shows how these indicators are related to the specific orientor assessment questions of table 5 concerning sector system performance. and economic indicators) by including indicators providing information about the sustainable development potential of all sectors of the total system. and producing. if necessary. more specific hierarchies of indexes and indicators can be introduced. The indicators listed in table 6 were selected for their ability to answer the respective orientor question. and to employ them for the benefit of the total system. A subsystem orientor deficit implies a threat to the viability of this sector system. F financial and economic indicators. B environmental burden indicators. administration. D dependence indicators. viability. Production capital of the economic system includes the stock of production. In this list. An assessment of the orientor fulfillment of the total system can only come from considering the contributions of all sector systems simultaneously. and biosystems. socio-political. It is the essential "backbone" of all economic and social activity. Human capital describes the potential for competent individual action as produced by. would contribute positively to "freedom of action" of the economic system. Sector-specific indicators must be found for each of these sector systems by defining indicators which can answer the orientor questions posed in table 5. for example. including the capacity for waste absorption and regeneration. Orientor satisfaction assessment procedure: The system state described by the indicator set is mapped on the basic orientors of subsystems as well as the total system. and sector system contribution to total system performance. They therefore appear simultaneously in several places. indicators have been ordered according to more traditional categories: N normative and ethics indicators. Several indicators are relevant to different orientor questions in different sector systems. and sustainability of the sector system7 and (2) What does it mean for the integrity. From the systematic derivation of indicators using the orientation-theoretic approach we finally obtain a list of some 220 sustainability indicators (table 6). of which this system is an essential part. water supply systems. The complete set of indicators therefore follows from a systematic completion of the six matrices for the sector systems. Natural capital represents the stock of renewable and nonrenewable resources of materials. Organizational capital. or with respect to the total system. or that answer the relevant question just as well (or better). viability. Note again that orientor deficits either with respect to a sector system. L living condition indicators. P psychological indicators. This has a strong cultural component. It provides the means for all economic activity.208 H. However. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development can grow or depreciate. cannot be compensated by orientor overfulfillment elsewhere.
hooks) Creative potential: artists. human rights. ratio ofj ob competence vs. economic and socialproblems.Qualification indicators Q01 Q02 Q03 Q04 Q05 Q06 Q07 Q08 209 Q09 Q 10 Q 11 NI0 Q 12 Q 13 Q 14 Q 15 Q 16 Q 17 Nl I P . personal skills.Normative a n d ethics indicators NOI N02 N03 N04 N05 N06 N07 N08 N09 Protection of health and rights of individual. job competence requirements (business and industry. place to live) Average years in one job or position Probability of being able to adhere to life plan Personal freedom to pursue new paths: years of preparation before major change is possible Percent nfpopulation reached by quality media information (newspapers. education) percent.ethics) (national and internationalprotest) Ability change behavioral norms pragmatically by reference to to needs and fLrm ethicalbackground: pet of population with ethically grounded way of life. spirituality. temples. social norms Work satisfaction (sick days per employee per year) / (sick days per avg. and future (pet of population: "serious problem") Index of personal happiness (well being): pet of population "happy with their life" Percent of individual life determined by external forces: bureaucracy. writers. and political favors Free organizational and administrative capacities and funds (as percent of total): pct. customs.Organizational indicators O01 002 003 004 005 006 007 O08 009 Degree of fiuancial. unemployment) (pot of population seeing "serious problem") Anxiety related to infrastructural problems (pet of population seeing "serious problem") Anxiety related to social problems (pet ofpopnlation seeing "serious problem") Anxiety related to individual development and self determination (pet of population seeing "serious problem") Anxiety related to government and administration (pet of population: "serious problem") Anxiety related to resources. average duration of government before major change Pet. qualificationlevelof population Avg. future Fairness level (pot of population seeing system as "extremely unfair") Fraction of population with predominantlycooperative vs. proximity of places of rest. or international agents Success rate in achieving long term goals: (goal backlog / goal achievement rate) = goal attainment time Percent of crimes leading to solution and conviction Percent of GDP going to graft. science. scientists and planners in future oriented research and development el0 el I O 12 O 13 P14 PI 5 P 16 . N .and institutions Index of viable system options (no ofqualitativelydifferent viable options per decisionimplemented) (Stockof unsolved major problems) / (problems solved per year) = problem solvingtime Percentof problems solved by govt.g. administration. beauty. churches) Regional landscape esthetics (on scale of "pleasing" to "ugly") Q 18 Q19 (Investment rate in education) / (investment rate in production capital) (Annual cost of education) / (gross domestic product) (Cost of individualeducation (time and money) for given qualification) / 0ifetime earnings) Lifetime fraction in education and training Education equity index: (years of education nfbest educated 10 pet) / (years of education of least educated 10 pct) Educational level of least educated 20 pet ofpopnlation Avg. non-governmentalorganizations. future generations in basic law (constitution) Frequency of violations ofbasic human rights Future discount applied in policy decisions Percent agreement of operating principles of political and economic system with ethical principles of regional culture Pet. quality and level nfeducation and skills: equivalent years of European education Spectrum of qualifications. and administration (compared to those "solved" by neglect. resource. corruption. business and industry. magazines. culture (e. environment. political. politics. experience: no of qualitatively different qualifications per 1000 people (multiple qualifications per person countt) percent of employees with narrow specialization only: pet of employees too specialized to change into different job Avg. competitive orientation Dominance of business interestsover serviceethic:percent of commercialization of essentialsocialservices Fractionof controversialeconomic activity(environmental. parks.services.Psychological indicators PO1 P02 P03 P04 P05 P06 P07 P08 P09 P10 PI 1 P12 P13 Anxiety related to problems of the economic system (poverty. of government projects that have to be changed or abandoned due to changing conditions Budget balance (percent of total expenditures): (net surplus or deficit) / (total government revenues) Potentially available uncommitted funds as fraction of total budget (Cnst of government and administrationper cap) / (average cost of living) Redundancy of essentialand centralprocesses. forests. adult population with organizational and management skills (paid or unpaid): pet of population who could efficientlymanage a business of more than 3 people Qualification level of employees and management in relation to avg.000 population Inertiaof socialnorms: rateof change of socialnorms and behavior: (consumer appliance inventory) / (rateof replacement by efficientappliances) = adoption time Q .H. number of viable alternatives of individual to present situation (job.number ofjudges and lawyers per I00. social stability: inflation rate. nature. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development Table 6 Indicators of sustainable development (based on basic orientor assessment). adult per year) Percent ofpopuiation who would rather live elsewhere for reasons of personal development Percent of population who would rather live elsewhere because ofinfrastrnctural deficits Percent ofpopuiation who would "escape" to another region for the sake of children's future Political alienation: pet nfpopulation not identifyingwith any of the political philosophies represented in elected bodies or government Agreement of political form of government and ofeconomic system with cultural and social norms Avg. agreement of legal system with "interests" of other regions. scientists per 1000 population Percent of adult population continuingeducation after formal education ends (> 200 hours per year) O . TV.and pragmatic (not legalistic) orientation. radio. natural systems.
time required to implement maj or entrepreneurial decision (e. bringing a small industrial plant to a community) Spectrum of political opinion (media): pet of media aligned with majority party Telephone or telecommunication links per 1000 people (incl.24 L25 I_.) in terms of avg.26 L27 L28 L29 O 19 020 021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 L30 W . music) etc. health care. of essential infrastructure which cannot be converted to different resource base or production in less than ten years Avg. violence. books. economic or ecological conditions. cultural) Percent of population with access to sufficient clean water and sanitation at their place of habitation Pet of population living ha cities > 50. Pet. medical. annual income Percent of major personal risks covered by insurance or social safety net Percent of social needs effectivelydealt with by system Rate of change of social service capacity: net rate of change of social service capital per cap (i. administrative.000 people (Avg.Welfare indicators W01 W02 030 W03 W04 W05 W06 W07 031 L . incl. crime. religion. below sufficiency level (satisfaction of essential needs) Percent of population within reach (one hour by foot. income rate for sufficiency) = financial cushion Ratio of avg. avg. NGO's per cap Frequency of democratic elections and referendums (number per decade ). land. infrastructure) Avg. epidemics. institutions. educational.g. tax breaks. art.) (expansion or deterioration rate) Degree of internal and external security: people killed per year (per 100000) by terrorism. lack of infrastructure) L23 1_. class) Burden on future generations due to excessive demands: (nonrenewable resource use / need for sufficient lifestyle). property.g. investment depreciation) Pet. PC's with Internet linkage etc. savings. of problems solved at the proper (lowest) level of responsibility Percent ofworkforce self-employed or in small business (< 10 employees) Effectiveness of political and social participation: pet of legislation originating from grassroots involvement Percent of population politically active at all levels of self government and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) Average active individual membership in social groups. or ofsecure social processes. of population ha hospitals. but cannot find work Rate ofchange of unemployment rate Work distribution index: (total employed work volume per week / working age population) / (regular workweek) Social support ratio: (children + old people + sick + unemployed) / (working population) Rate of change ofsocial support ratio Social service unit cost: annual per cap cost of social service per serviced persons vs. house price to annual income Floor area per person Walking and cycling distance per capita per day Adult literacy rate W08 W09 WI 0 W 11 Wl2 W 13 W14 W 15 W16 W17 W18 W 19 W20 W21 W22 Degree of social inequity (e. of working age adults who want to. mental institutions: (beds occupancy) / population Individual lifetime fraction required for sufficient life support: (hours / average life hours) Lifetime fraction required to reach essential services (transportation.. waiting. time for institutional change (law. percent of population under discriminatory conditions of gender. for next five years Probability of adequate financing for social support processes in twenty years Unemployment rate: pet. resp. travel to work) Lifetime fraction available for leisure: (hours / average life hours) Lifetime fraction in meaningful. pet innovative products of regional origin per year o fall industrial sectors Creative products (patents. social unrest. per 100. annual income .e.04 L05 L06 L07 LOS L09 L10 L11 LI 2 L13 L14 L15 L16 L17 L 18 L19 Population density (people/sq.Living condition indicators L01 L02 L03 I_. kin) Net population growth rate (Net population growth rate) / (net infrastructure growth rate) Rate of change of birth rate Infant mortality rate Life expectancy at birth Rate of change of life expectancy at birth Food calorie supply per cap as pet of minimum daily adult requirement. period ofmajor political change in country Fraction of self-organizing (NGO) vs. transport. social. subsidies. insurance) / (ann.. communication) (or rate of change of lifetime required to secure essential needs) Avoidable mortality and disability as fraction of total mortality and disability (starvation. (debt/cap) Income distribution: (Income of the top 10%) / (Income of the bottom 10%) Rate ofchange of income inequity index (income of poorest 10 pot / average income) Social problems as percent of active political issues: pet of time ha parliament etc. Avg. jails. vehicles.. clubs. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development Avg. race. security of funding. and administration: pet of economic activity that originated from innovative government support (research. floods etc. or public transport) of all essential services (essential supplies. poverty. devoted to acute social problems Percent of population with income below sufficiency level Rate of change of social problems: rate of change of population fraction with income below sufficiency (poverty) level Pet of population dependent on public welfare system (Average savings or debt) / (annual income) Fraction of population that could supply and support itself at sufficiency level in emergency Avg.000 people L20 L21 L22 Rate of change of per capita service capacity (roads. poverty. fulfilling activities: (hours / average life hours) Lifetime fraction lost in illness and disability Rate of change of quality lifetime (education. for poorest quintile of population Proportion of undernourished (and overnourished) children Ratio of actual per cap material consumption to sufficient consumption Percent of population at poverty level. war Degree of internal social stability: people displaced per year (per 100000) by civil war.210 O 14 O 15 O 16 O 17 O 18 H.) Percent (major) change of product spectrum per year: avg. total social activity Innovative programs introduced and completed by govt. bike.) Degree of decentralized responsibility (subsidiarity): pet. multiple professional qualifications per upper echelon administrator Level ofinstitutional bureaucracy: bureaucrats and administrators in government and industry per working adult Pet. schools. appliances etc. value of property access (private or communal: housing. hospitals etc. culture.
permissible sustainable footprint: ecosystem area needed per cap to produce or absorb the ecosystem services utilized Rate of change of environmental footprint External burden on environment due to personal demands: (actual consumption rate) / (rate of sufficiency consumption) Net greenhouse gas emissions per economic output: (tons CO2 equivalent). work for personal gain (paid or unpaid) Average size of cohabiting family unit Avg./($ GDP) Rate of change of key enviroumental indicators (pollution.. hydrosphere. footprint) Energy cost as fraction of total system operating cost (Food and essential product stocks) / (rate ofconsnmption) = reserves time constant Percent of regional carrying capacity used at current lifestyle (primary production and waste absorption capacity) Dependence on depletable resources. intensive personal international contacts per cap and year (equiv. fish. diversity) Avg. religious) Trade partner disparity index: ~-'~ (domestic life expectancy i . educational.) burden indicators D02 D03 D04 D05 D06 D07 D08 D09 D10 D 11 D 12 B . level of migrants) Percent ofpopulation born elsewhere (language compatibility. foreign assistance): (migration rate / population) * (average education level / avg.g. (metals/ capyear) Avg. depletion) (pet. rate ofintense family type social contacts per day Avg. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development W23 W24 W25 W26 W27 W28 Fraction of working age population employed (paid or unpaid) in social service work Ratio ofvolunteer services (hours) to paid services (hours) Lifetime fraction of societal contribution of individual vs. transportation. trains. related to best technical solution (ecological footprint/min. commerce. agriculture) Rate of change of energy required to harvest one unit of renewable resource Energy required to extract a unit of nonrenewable energy (energy unit / energy unit) Rate of change of energy required to extract a unit of nonrenewable energy (Rate of development ofrenewable energy substitutes) / (rate of depiction of nonrenewable energy resources) Supply redundancy (for energy. buses. vehicle kilometers per square kilometer) Rate ofchange of primary production claimed for human use (forests. political. convertible to qualitatively different option in less than five years) (Value ofcapital stock) / (value of end use output rate) = pay-back years (Savings rate) / (capital depreciation rate) (Annual debt service cost) / (total revenues) (Debt per cap) / (avg.H. agriculture. airplanes) Average transportation distance for key resources (water. distribution by domestic organizations Percent ofenviroumentai and resource use loads dependent on net uncompensated use of international commons (atmosphere...Financial and economic indicators B05 B06 B07 B08 F01 F02 1:03 F04 F05 Economic effort per cap: (GDP per cap) / (GDP per cap for sufficiency) Productivity growth rate Expenditures for maintenance of capital stock / value of capital stock Pet. health care: average number of alternatives Redundancy factor of essential infrastructure services: pet. to 1 hr talk. food): percent that could be supplied from other sources than the present Powered vehicle kilometers per capita per year (people transport in cars. foreign currency) on sources not under regional control Percent ofessential production generated within region Domestic food potential production rate / food demand Percent ofproduction. of economy dependent on non-local transport Diversity factor for essential food. lifetime of infrastructure capital) B09 BI0 B 11 Environmental footprint vs. cost ofliving) Future debt footprint: (debt) / (net pay-back rate) = payback time Rate of change of future debt footprint Environmental and societal impact: Ratio ofexternal costs of economic operations to value of economic transactions (GDP) Ratio of government or foreign economic subsidies (annual rate) to economic output rate (GDP) Rate of material or financial surplus generation as fraction of total investment Commercialization depth of transformation chain for essential products: ratio of wheat price to price of bread ($/kg) / ($/kg) D . materials) Systemic need for transportation system: Pet. essential materials. water. 2 page letter etc. change per year) Percentage of intact ecosystems (relative area) Rate of change of intact ecosystem area (wilderness) Ecosystem encroachment by infrastructure: Road and traffic density 0ength per square kilometer. energy. domestic: ratio of value of(import + export) trade to gross domestic product Import or export of social problems (migration.life expectancy of partner i) / (i * domestic life expectancy) Cross border trade and communication vs. soils) Net air and water pollution import or export: (quantity entering country) / (quantity leaving country) Percent of international partners with similar views and interests (language. cultural. descrtification. education.Environmental B01 B02 B03 B04 F . energy. distance between living places ofmembers of extended family F06 1:07 F08 F09 F 10 F11 F12 211 M- Material resource use indicators F13 F 14 F15 M01 M02 M03 M04 M05 M06 M07 M08 M09 M 10 M 11 M 12 M 13 M 14 M 15 M 16 M 17 M 18 M 19 M20 Resource throughput per cap: (energy / capyear). security of fLXedcost and upkeep financing for next 20 years (Total infrastructure capital) / (rate of infrastructure investment) = renewaltime (avg. food. of essential services with at least duplicate and independent facilities Spectrum of future societal options provided by infrastructural solutions (pet.Dependence indicators D01 Percent dependence of vital supplies (food. water. renewable energy fraction (Renewable resource use rate) / (renewable resource regeneration rate) (Depletable resource supplies)/(depletable resource use rate) = resource life Energy required to harvest one unit of renewable resource (energy unit / energy unit) (e. resource consumption and pollution per product or service.) Rate of change ofeculogical diversity index Endangered species as percent of native species .
i. utilized reserves (reserves. resources. B31 index) B32 B33 Percent of economic output (theoretically) required to counteract detrimental effects of system Pet. For a given scenario. A relatively reliable and complete assessment can already be made by filling out an appropriate checklist. waste absorption functions which must be supplied by technical means (sewage plants. and that most of the relevant assessment questions can be answered sufficiently by qualitative statements (present/absent. (pot/year). utilized carrying capacity Rate of change of regional carrying capacity: rate of change ofprimary production and waste absorption capacity Sustainability index of region: pet of GDP based on sustainable activities Closeness to collapse (eutrophication. regional development): Rate of conversion of fertile agricultural land to infrastructure etc. share of environmental degradation (water. although overall conclusions concerning the sustainability of each system could again be comparable. accumulation of persistent wastes Health cost of environmental pollution: pet of lifetime lost to environmental pollution (illness. soft buffer capacity) Percent of resource supply.. erosion) due to poverty 7.e. overuse) (pet. It is now clear that we cannot hope to capture all aspects relevant to system development in one simple indicator (such as GNP). Eventual aggregation of indicator states to index values must account for the fundamental multidimensionality of the assessment problem. soft) Buffer capacity vs. groundwater. Rather. Hence sustainability indicator sets are region-specific. "Sustainability" can only be discussed in relation to a particular region.212 B12 B13 B14 B15 BI 6 B 17 B18 B 19 B20 B21 1t. Even a qualitative orientor satisfaction assessment will quickly locate trouble spots and performance deficits threatening subsystems and the total system (see below). however. the indicator sets for a village in Lapland. regeneration. the approach can also be used to make quick but reliable assessments in cases where costly and time-consuming data collection is not possible or feasible. grammar. water systems. I Orientor stars and performance grades The important questions that have to be asked and answered when trying to assess viability and sustainability were listed in table 5. aquifers. fish. So let us use ordinary school grades to rate how well a development cater (or indicators) must give an accurate answer to a particular orientor question (of table 5). and a village of similar size in West Africa. since it is directly related to its carrying capacity. accurate quantification must be possible. These concrete. recycling. without the need for expensive and time-consuming quantitative measurements of indicators. In the previous section. representative indicators were collected to provide answers to each of these questions. 7 Applications Systems orientation theory has been applied above to generate a comprehensive set of indicators of sustainable regional development which could be used to guide data collection and international comparison. and for each of the six societal subsystems (tables 6 and 7).(renewal rate . For international comparisons. resource exhaustion. waste management.about as well (or as poorly) as an English teacher can judge the quality of style. erosion. This complication is somewhat alleviated by the fact that some indicator variable can be used in different sectoral assessments. For example. They may have to include indicators in one region which would not be appropriate in another. we can estimate the degree of orientor satisfaction . However.harvest rate) (for forests. and grading orientor satisfaction on some crude scale. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development Rate of change ofendangercd species list Rate of increase in biocide-resistant species Rate of change in the number of persistent chemicals in the environment (Rate ofproduction or import of key chemicals) / (rate of absorption) : net accumulation of persistent pollution Percent of unpolluted stream and beach kilometers Fertility loss: (contaminated + eroded + acidified + alkalized soil) / (original fertile soft) Rate of depletion of nonrenewable resources: static resource lifetime = (resource reserves) I (resource use rate) Net renewable resource depletion rate -. The latter observation is of great practical significance: If we have a good qualitative knowledge of the system. early death: see DALY B22 B23 B24 B25 B26 B27 B28 B29 B30 tions. quantifiable indicators would normally have to come from some statistical data sources. a set of the order of at least(7 x 2 x 6 =)84 indicators appears to be necessary. composition of student essays. nor even a handful of indicators.) Area used for environmentally compatible sustainable agriculture / total agricultural area Percent of local adaptation of resource use methods to local conditions Diversity and multiple use capability ofenviroument and resource base: number of regionally adapted field crops that could each supply more than 10 pet ofregioual demand Actual carrying capacity vs. But these orientor questions ultimately require simple qualitative answers of the type: "Basic orientor X of system N is (or is not) satisfied". it is not possible to combine apples and oranges in one index (such as "life expectancy" with "groundwater pollution"). intact ecosystems. fuel-wood and forests. would be quite different. Hence the approach can also be applied to coarser. we can obtain a fairly reliable sustainability assessment by qualitative answers to the orientor ques- .. permissible rate of change Rate of foreclosure of important options (environment. substance. ofcritieal level) Adaptability limit of key ecosystems: actual rate of change vs. qualitative assessments that still provide comprehensive and reasonably reliable results. sufficient~insufficient) without requiring precise numbers for difficult-to-measure variables.
H. Bossel/ Derivingindicators ofsustainable development 213 Table 7 Basic orientor assessment of sustainable development performance. Sector systems: I Infrastructure system E Economic system S Social system H Human individual development G Government system R Resources and environment Sector system performance I E S H G R Sector system contribution to total system I E S H G R X existence L20 F04 F13 D01 L02 W14 W15 L24 L30 L05 003 F08 F09 B05 M08 M07 Bll B25 LI3 L12 L30 D03 L08 B14 P02 Pll LI1 BI0 W07 L04 L07 W04 W08 W10 W04 008 009 M05 B21 P psych. needs L12 N08 N04 W26 W27 W28 P15 P07 W01 QO5 L26 L27 023 L27 L28 P13 P14 N07 P16 P01 P03 N06 P04 Pl0 P05 P13 P06 P12 E effectiveness F06 Q02 F15 M15 L18 F03 L22 M01 020 F05 MI8 Q00 QI2 L14 W01 M02 F05 W23 W22 W24 B31 O12 O15 008 M06 B06 Mll M12 M09 M10 M01 B00 L25 M16 Q03 O31 L24 B32 B26 M06 W13 L23 W06 Qll B27 B26 008 005 O 11 M03 M16 F freedom O18 F07 000 P09 F02 WI7 W22 W13 W18 L06 N02 P08 024 Q18 P13 L19 W09 L30 QI5 WI2 F08 O13 M07 M08 B20 M18 B08 MI7 L06 L17 L16 L25 L30 B05 Q13 O00 B30 F01 004 W23 W05 Q08 Q09 D02 FI4 026 O19 007 MI4 M07 L02 S security M19 L05 L30 D01 M06 006 W20 W21 W16 O01 O10 002 B01 B02 BI5 B28 LI5 Lll M00 B12 D00 W05 B33 W07 Wll QI0 L21 O11 B05 L22 D01 MI4 M08 B19 B22 B13 O16 B24 B14 B16 D05 B15 B18 D06 B17 A adaptability O17 Q07 Q01 O15 B05 B01 B02 B30 030 O 13 028 O 15 Q07 QI7 W01 W02 Q08 Q04 Q 16 QI9 W25 B03 W01 O14 021 o 17 MI3 B29 M 10 B23 B07 BI0 N03 M20 L03 L29 B10 B06 B01 B02 B30 Qo8 QI3 022 025 Nll Q06 Qos NI0 QI4 027 029 C F12 coexistence D07 024 N05 N09 B09 L10 D09 L01 DII D10 W02 W19 L09 W03 W05 W01 DI2 B01 B02 F10 FI1 N01 008 D08 .
0: excellent B = 3. Comparing the orientor star for one development path with that of an alternative path.we cannot put population growth in Africa. Next. where the length of each ray repreTable 9 Grading orientor satisfaction for "North". Basic Orientors infrastructure economic system sub B ABACB+ Ctotal B B+ CB CB+ C- sents the (average) degree of satisfaction of that basic orientor in the system. for example. So let us make assessments for representatives of two diverse groups of nations: (1) highly industrialized "rich" nations of the " N o r t h " (represented by the USA). For each subsystem. and the more even its pattern. we must restrict the assessment to one particular area . (For simplicity. the entry in the first column ("sub") shows how well the respective basic orientor of that subsystem is satisfied. It is difficult to discern a pattern in such a table of grades.: subtract 0. we have assigned equal weight to each subsystem. and to its contribution to the total system).0: fail To provide somewhat finer grading. we have to patiently work through the questions in table 5 for each of the six societal subsystems and for each development path to be assessed. We lose information this way. but we can now plot the results as an "orientor star" with seven rays. and unemployment in Europe into one assessment. We enter the grades in a table (table 8).3) or for worse ( . and resources sub CC+ CC+ CC+ C+ total BBB B BB C+ sub X p E F S A C B+ AC+ BB B+ C+ total B+ B+ B B+ B+ B C sub BC C CCC B total C BC CCB C+ sub CBB C+ BAC total B B BB+ C+ BC . The entry in the second column ("total") indicates how well this subsystem contributes to the satisfaction of the respective basic orientot of the total system. On the other hand.0: deficient F = 0. and (2) not yet industrialized "poor" nations of the "South" (represented by a sub-Saharan country such as Mali). The pattern of this star gives an indication of the viability and sustainability of the system. We have to aggregate the information and present it in a convenient graphic form.214 H. let us also use pluses and minuses to modify grades for the better (+ : add 0. rain forest destruction in South America. To be consistent. Basic orientor infrastructure economic system sub total social system individual development sub total government environ.0: good C = 2. our assessment is rather crude and cannot reliably distinguish between similar European nations.0: fair D = 1. needs Effectiveness Freedom Security Adaptability Coexistence total sub total sub total path can be expected to satisfy each of the basic orientors of each subsystem and the total system: A = 4.3). The "current situation" is significantly different in different countries and regions of the world. the better. My personal assessments for these representatives of social system individual development sub AAB+ ABA Ctotal C+ B C AB A C government environ. we can clearly see where one path has advantages over another. We therefore replace the letter grades by their numerical equivalents and compute average grades for each of the basic orientor satisfactions (by dividing by 2 x 6 = 12). and resources sub total sub eXistence Psychol. Z 2 Comparison of regional development Let us apply this method of basic orientor assessment to a comparative assessment of current development trends. The brighter (bigger) the star. say. Bossel / Derivingindicators of sustainable development Table 8 Scheme for grading orientor satisfaction.
Comparing the pattern and size of orientor stars for different development paths gives us a holistic view of where we stand now. The "adaptability" rating for the North reflects US conditions. and telephone system. ethnic composition. ecological footprint of the community. Much as traffic signs. The difference between " N o r t h " and "South" is quite obvious. their homo. cultural diversity. The community is the smallest "cell" of human interaction that contains all the vital sector subsystems that we find in the larger units (citios~ states. employment. recycling. and what changes each path is likely to bring. their community.3 Indicators for sustainable community development We can theorize about global sustainable development. Social system: Population size and growth. In this transition process. and the future than the North. and the orientor star provides some information about the different deficits in both regions. energy efficiency of public and private buildings.and resources sub C B total B B P E D D+ C- CD+ D+ CC F S D D C+ D+ B B B D D D+ C B B C CC B CC B C C+ D+ D+ D+ C B+ C+ D+ CC A- CD+ CC B- D+ CC C B- C+ BC§ BB- CD D+ D+ B- A C C B CB the current " N o r t h " and "South" are shown in tables 9 and 10. buildings. and the average orientor satisfactions for these two cases are plotted in the orientor star of figure 5. welfare and social security. water supply. We would be prudent to heed these hints. parks and wilderness area. In particular. material balances of plants. "freedom of action". we must first make sure that communities are on a sustainable path. these silhouettes of the future can give us clear warning of what lies ahead. current economic conditions in the South restrict "effectiveness". Government system: Community administration. resources. businesses of all kinds. The "coexistence" rating of the South is higher than that of the North because the South produces a much smaller drain on global environment. income distribution. but it can only come about through the actions of millions of individuals who change things in their family. Resources and environment: Waste generation and disposal. it is significantly lower for European nations. If the world is to get onto a sustainable path. social problems. Can we trust this crude assessment? Are the results significant? I think the trend is clear. . Individual development: Schools and other educational institutions. libraries. 7. hospitals. and "adaptability" compared to conditions in the North. electric power supply. and will change little in more careful and detailed assessments: Viability and sustainability of both regions are at stake. the community may be the most crucial component. sewage treatment. Basic Orientors infrastructure sub X total economic system sub B+ Btotal D D socialsystem sub CB total CC individual development sub D+ C total B C government sub CC total C C environ. sower lines and sewage plant. what implications alternative paths would have on system viability and sustainability. social structure. non-governmental organizations. clubs. "security". sports and recreation facilities. Figure 5. however.1-1. markets. nations) of human society: Infrastructure system: Roads. or their business. without giving much detail. Orientorassessmentfor an industrialcountryofthe "North" Neither the political pronouncements of the mayor. the and a poor developingcountryofthe "South". banks.Bossel/ Derivingindicatorsofsustainabledevelopment 215 Table 10 Gradingorientorsatisfactionfor "South". crime. But we need a good set of indicators to really " s e e " the state of viability and sustainability of a community. Both regions are on unsustainable paths. citizen participation. E c o n o m i c system: Shops.
fuel. employees. and allow cultural and economic diversity. The general procedure for systematically determining a set of indicators for the sustainability assessment of a community is then as follows: Go through the basic orientor assessment questions of table 5 for each of the six sector systems. without restricting the diversity of species and ecosystems? Security: H o w secure are lives and health of citizens? How secure is the environment? Is there sufficient protection from hazards of all kinds? Adaptability: Can the facilities accommodate a change of population number and (age) composition? Do they allow a reasonably quick adaptation of the community to new technologies. esthetic needs of the population? Effectiveness: Do the services provided by the infrastructure system justify its cost in money. money. materials. people) used efficiently and effectively? Are environmental impacts efficiently minimized? Freedom of action: Does the infrastructure provide freedom of personal development. This set is applicable to regional or national development. firemen. or scarcity? Coexistence: What impacts do infrastructure facilities have on the environment. for others. political constraints. it will certainly focus the discussion on the really important issues. For some. legal restrictions? Do they have the freedom and the means to implement more sustainable solutions? Security: Are there sufficient financial reserves? Are the facilities safe? Are there redundancies that can take over in case of failure? Are facilities vitally dependent on external supplies or control (in particular: water. and other environmental burdens? What is the energy efficiency of public and private buildings? What percentage of energy use is renewable? What percentage of waste is recycled? Freedom of action: How constrained are decisionmakers in this sector by budgets. energy supply etc. doctors. could they easily adapt to much higher energy prices. it might be the air pollution by a local steel mill. nor the community's budget sheet.? In particular. while others may include the efficient use of methane from their sewage plant for electric power generation in their indicator list. and their role and contribution to community viability is obvious. number of teachers. There is such a diverse spectrum of communities in the world that it is not possible to find a set of indicators that would apply to all of them. trying to provide essential services. or police tell the whole story in the "holistic" systems sense that is required for a comprehensive assessment. waste disposal)? Do they secure the existence of a viable economic system? Psychological needs: Do the facilities contribute to fulfillment of psychological needs for a healthy and secure environment that provides opportunities for individual development? Effectiveness: Does the infrastructure permit effective and efficient operation of the community and all its sectors? Are community resources (energy. hospitals.216 H. resources. Plot the overall result as an "orientor star" (of. (1) Viability o f infrastructure system itself: Existence: Are there sufficient funds for the operation and maintenance of roads. (2) with respect to contribution of this system to the community as a whole. Note that indicators have to be defined for two sets of questions: (1) with respect to viability of the sector system itself. whatever the final outcome of the exercise may be. Accordingly. political parties. agreement even among opponents will not be too difficult to achieve. and the total system must be represented by the indicators. These indicators must give a fairly reliable and complete picture of what really matters. or resource scarcity and cost? Does the environment remain sufficiently adaptive? Coexistence: What environmental burdens does the community produce? What inputs of material. markets. sewage plant? Psychological needs: Are the various components of the infrastructure system compatible with the psychological. pressure groups. on social relationships. We found that the state of satisfaction of the "real interests" (basic orientors) of actors. on interests of future generations? (2) Contribution o f the infrastructure system to the viability and sustainability o f the community: Existence: Do the infrastructure facilities secure human existence (water and food supply. the indicator set listed in table 6 was derived by using systems orientation theory. bureaucracy. food)? Adaptability: Could facilities adapt to changes of technology. We have dealt with the problem of finding representative indicators for sustainable regional development. Grade performance in each of the categories by using familiar school grades. and find indicators that can answer those questions for the particular circumstances of the community. pollution. but it cannot be used directly for assessing sustainable development at the local or community level. Here are some sample questions that would lead to appropriate indicators for the Infrastructure System sector (the same approach would have to be used for the other five sectors). food and water are required? Where do they come from? . might have to count the number of outdoor latrines per I000 people. figure 5). change in economy and markets. population. Do not be afraid of the "subjective" grading system: If your indicators are clearly defined. cultural. Bossel / Deriving indicators of sustainable development city council. or the chamber of commerce. subsystems. Some communities. the run of wild salmon in the local river  might be an important indicator of environmental quality. energy.
1996. 30 Szenarien.Explorations of Sustainable Futures. Deutschen Bundestags.12. Perspektiven zur Zukunft der (4) Comparative evaluation: Compare these conseLandwirtschaft (Agrarpfade) (Future perspectives of quences. Yale University Press. J. (3) Impact assessment: Determine the likely conseEnquete-KommissionTechnild'olgenabsch~itzung. Discussing the future is different from everyday decisions: It is partly based on well-known facts about the present. Fischer. Zerger. neue Werte. Instead Birkhauser.  A. 20/20 Vision . 71 p. Zerger. Note that normative concepts (and hence differences in evaluation) become decisive only in the last step. Economy. 1977. The orientor-based assessment procedure discussed here was developed to allow this holistic view.Neue fuzzy subjective vision of the "right path" we can then Leitbilder. 427 pp.we find RIVM Report no. Enquete-Kommission "TechnikfolgenAbsch~itzung und Bewertung" des 11. Stuttgart. Frankfurt/M. Ecosystems and Society: Implicationsfor sustainable development. Bossel. Bossel. 461502009.8. Kxamer. Bossel. 7. assessment. have more substantial discussions of the points that 1978. quences and impacts of each path for each of the stake H.4 Assessing and comparing future paths Discussions about routes into the future tend to get bogged down quickly. even among intelligent people who have no trouble sorting out the facts and making rational decisions in everyday situations. 227-265. Basel. 1994. AIternativen landwirtschaftlicher Produktionsweisen and consistent (of. The truly important disagreements will appear here.A cultural perspective-based approach. 199 I. National Institute of Public Health it difficult or impossible to accept other points of view. Here are the steps of a rational discussion about the  H. H. J. Bossei.R e f e r e n c e s ments. Bilthoven. Band V. of wasting time trying to convince the other side of our  H.. But the work invested will be rewarded by a much better understanding of the community as a "living system" integrated in the global system. (2) Future paths: Identify the major riverbeds of  H. The Netherlands (Globo We split into different political factions. and should therefore be able to guide planning and decision-making. of its needs and functions. and of its potential to contribute to sustainable development of the global system. Atkinsson et al. Miiller-Reissmann. van Asselt and J. there should then also be agreement about the path to be taken into the future. A K Peters. Ethics: we should bring as much rationality into the process as The Broken Circle. holders and subsystems of the total system. Wiesbaden. And assessment modelling . 1996. Weismantel and H. viability. Bossel. Rotmans. Neoclassical Capital Theory and lts Application (forthcoming). H. H. and the Environment. In particular. Bossel. World Futures 46. Baranzini and M.H. K. 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(Alternative paths of agricultural production). 9) (1995). Green National Product: The subjective convictions as if they were self-evident facts. before one can sit down to define indicators for sustainable development for a particular community. Bossel.. Bossel / Derivingindicators of sustainable development 217 What impacts do they produce there? What are the loads on the environment produced by the community? What consequences do they have? What irreversibilities constraining future options are produced by the infrastructure system? This list is by no means complete. We can then separate indisputable facts from Tools of Computer-assisted Policy Analysis. and similar lists will have to be produced for the other sector systems. Futures 19 (1987) 114-128.). P. accuse each Report No. Borman and S. sion. 1987. and seek to arrive at a collective concluCenter for Environmental Systems Research. 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