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Haberl, Helmut
Schandl, Heinz
Year of Publication: 
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38th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Europe Quo Vadis? - Regional Questions at the Turn of the Century", 28 August - 1 September 1998, Vienna, Austria
Session: Environmental Management, Sustainability and Development Sustainable development aims at shaping the socio-economic behavior towards nature in ways that guarantee the preservation of the life-supporting natural systems for future generations. Moreover, it seeks to achieve some kind of ?global justice" with respect to the distribution of natural resources. Steps towards sustainability require fundamental changes in the prevailing production and consumption patterns and lifestyles in the industrial centers of the world. These changes will be influenced by framework conditions set by economic and environmental policy. Indicators may help to understand and describe developments too complex to be grasped as a whole. They make phenomena or trends visible and may be seen as "empirical models of reality". Indicators can support economic and environmental policy by contributing to a simplification and quantification of complex environmental problems. The proposed contribution will analyze the "empirical models" indicator systems put forward recently, e.g. by the World Resources Institute and Eurostat and the "ecological footprint / sustainable process index" concept of Wackernagel, Rees and Narodoslawsky. It will then propose a model which relies on two concepts for the interaction of societies with their natural environment: 1 / Socio-economic metabolism, i.e. the material and energy flows between socio-economic systems and their natural environment. 2 / The colonization of nature, i.e. the conundrum of deliberate interventions into natural systems aimed at their "improvement" with respect to socio-economic goals. These concepts are used to develop "pressure indicators", i.e. indicators which describe socio-economic processes which are highly likely to have environmentally detrimental consequences. These pressure indicators may be used to analyze if current socio-economic trends are directed towards sustainable development. These environmental indicators can be linked to economic actors (economic sectors or activities) as well as to economic indicators, such as the system of national accounts (SNA). They may thus support economic and environmental policy making. Together with "state indicators" which describe socio-economic as well as natural "stocks" (e.g. biodiversity, environmental quality, material infrastructure etc.) and so-called "response indicators" which trace policy measures aimed at alleviating environmental problems, pressure indicators can be used to develop comprehensive systems of sustainability indicators. The proposed contribution will focus on the regional / spatial aspects of such indicator systems. It will draw from the on-going research project "Colonizing Landscapes - Indicators of Sustainable Land Use" in the framework of the Austrian research program "Sustainable Development of Cultural Landscapes". Keywords: Indicators, land use, sustainability, pressures on the environment, economic activities, physical economy, colonization of nature, socio-economic metabolism
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Conference Paper

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