People Work to Sustain Systems: A Framework for Understanding Sustainability

Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management 141 (12) (2015)
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Sustainability is commonly recognized as an important goal, but there is little agreement on what sustainability is, or what it requires. This paper looks at some common approaches to sustainability, and while acknowledging the ways in which they are useful, points out an important lacuna: that for something to be sustainable, people must be willing to work to sustain it. The paper presents a framework for thinking about and assessing sustainability which highlights people working to sustain. It also briefly discusses Integrated Water Resource Management and the example of the California Water Plan to explore what such a perspective brings that is overlooked in other approaches, and how this approach might be pursued. Ultimately, this framework argues that a system can only be described as sustainable if people’s work to sustain the system is biophysically possible, socially possible, and if people would freely choose to do the sustaining work. -/- Read More:

Author Profiles

Zachary Piso
Michigan State University
Ian Werkheiser
University Of Texas Rio Grande VAlley


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