WIT Press

The Needs Of Sustainability: The Problem Of Data Availability For Calculating Indicators


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F. M. Pulselli, S. Bastianoni, V. Niccolucci & E. Tiezzi


New instruments and scientific tools are necessary to improve our knowledge about the state and the possible evolution of complex systems, both natural and anthropic, from a sustainability viewpoint. In order to achieve the assessment of environmental sustainability, several holistic methods have been developed in the last two decades that are often applied worldwide. If holistic methodologies are to be implemented for the study of anthropic systems, such as territorial systems or production processes, in order to calculate synthetic sustainability indicators, then the availability of the most reliable and consistent data set is a condicio sine qua non to obtain a verisimilar representation of reality. Nowadays, databases created and usually provided by institutions seem to neglect important aspects of the relationship between human life and the biophysical bases which it is founded on. In other words, while it is relatively easy to obtain information about economic aspects of human activity (in monetary terms), it is arduous to appreciate the physical essence of flows and stocks of natural resources directly and indirectly involved in the same processes. This paper shows the application and comparison of more than thirty indicators applied to territorial systems, in order to highlight their complementarities and overlapping and the most relevant data to be collected. 1 Introduction Today, the progressive spreading of the concept of sustainable development is leading people to look for solutions from a political, economic, social, institutional and environmental point of view. This new tendency, that may be defined as \“therapeutic” (with respect to various problems that have arisen in