Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment

H. Haberl, M. Fischer-Kowalski, F. Krausmann, H. Schandl, H. Weisz and V. Winiwarter:

Theoretical foundations of societal observation of sustainable development


We discuss theoretical issues related to sets of sustainability indicators. We propose that sustainable development can only be observed by analyzing the interrelation between socioeconomic and natural systems which have to be conceptualized as autopoietic and interacting systems. In order to be able to observe this interaction process between socioeconomic and natural systems, a set of sustainability indicators must, at least, comprise four different types of indicators: (1) socioeconomic driving forces, (2) pressures on the environment, (3) state of the environment and (4) feedbacks of environmental change on society. Society-nature interrelations are conceptualized using two basic notions: (1) socioeconomic metabolism and (2) colonization of natural processes.

Key words: Sustainability indicators; Society-nature-interaction; Socioeconomic metabolism; Colonization of natural processes; Land use.