Desired direction

Flood risk

Costs

Dams

Retention capacity

Space for water

Space for land

Agriculture

Buildings

Potential damage

Nature

Flood risk

1

1

Costs

Dams

-1

1

-1

1

-1

Retention capacity

-1

Space for water

1

1

Space for land

1

1

Agriculture

-1

-1

1

-1

Buildings

-1

-1

1

-1

Potential damage

1

Nature

1

-1

Figure 11.2. Checking for inconsistencies in the system.

In order to evaluate the long-term continuity and functionality of the system, we tested the consistency of the desired directions and flows connecting the stocks. The consistency check for a flow is passed if the value of the flow ("+1" or "—1") is equal to the desired direction of the originating stock multiplied by the desired direction of the receiving stock of that flow. For example: —1 (flood risk) X —1 (dams) = 1 (the value of the flow from flood risk to dams found in the third cell of the first row). If these signs are not consistent, then the desired direction of a stock is not consistent with the flow driving it. For example, -1 (dams) X -1 (flood risk) =1= -1 (the value of the flow from dams to flood risk).

An inconsistency implies that if a desired development for one stock is realized, another stock comes under some pressure to develop in an undesired direction. Thus we can pinpoint the system elements the development of which undermines the system elsewhere. The more of these inconsistencies we encounter, the more difficult it will be to steer the system onto what is normatively chosen to be a sustainable trajectory. In our example, 9 out of 23 flows are inconsistent with our sustainability goals. The inconsistencies are shaded in Figure 11.2.

These inconsistencies are not inconsistencies in the policy interventions. They are structural patterns within the system that make a consistent policy strategy for sustain-ability impossible. Weakening or removing these inconsistencies is a necessary but not sufficient condition for an integrated sustainability strategy. Each inconsistency in itself seems trivial: If more room is provided for nature, this comes at the cost of agriculture. The building of more dams comes at the cost of land for other purposes. The construction of buildings within the river's flood bed increases the potential damage. Summed up, they determine the difficulties of sustainable management of the river basin.

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