Proposing a System Indicator

If sustainable development is interpreted as the balanced long-term development of the three domains of sustainability, then the development of one part of the system toward a desirable state should not occur structurally at the cost of developments elsewhere in the system because this would compromise its continuity and functionality. In this section we propose the Qualitative System Sustainability Index (QSSI) as an indicator for the degree to which the system structure causes such compromises.

We illustrate the QSSI on the basis of a conceptual model that we drafted for a SCENE case study on the transition in Dutch river basin management between 1970 and 2000 (van der Brugge et al. 2004). The model in Figure 11.1 describes the system for the year 1970. We chose this example because it is the smallest model we have drafted in terms of stock (10) and flow (23) numbers. The system properties in terms of connectedness, the relative number of feedback cycles, and cluster formation are comparable with those of other systems we have drafted. We therefore consider this model to be representative for illustration purposes.

The matrix is read from left to right. Each cell in the matrix stands for a potential flow from the stock in the row toward stock in the column of that cell. A flow from flood risk to dams (if there is a threat of floods, more dams are being built) can be found

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