Andy Scerri

Global Cities Research Institute, RMIT University

Andy ScerriAndy Scerri is Research Fellow in the Community Sustainability Programme of the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. His empirical focus is on city and metro-regional responses to the political challenges of sustainable development, in particular in relation to efforts to establish citizen-driven policy monitoring initiatives in Australia and Canada. His theoretical interests centre on understanding how political debate over sustainable development is shaping questions of citizenship, ideology and the state. He has authored and co-authored a book, journal articles, chapters and reports dealing with the theory and practice of citizenship, with community development, environmental reporting and methodological issues in ecological economics.

The Approach Provides An Alternative To The Three-Dimensional Models

The shift from a model based on measurement and analysis of Pressures, States and Responses (PSR) to one that measures and analyses Driving Forces, Pressures, States, Impacts/Implications and Responses (DPSIR) in State of Environment (SoE) reporting is significant. The PSR and DPSIR ‘models’ describe the ecosystem as a chain of cause-and-effect: Things or actions drive certain pressures within an ecosystem, resulting in particular states emerging. This has an impact upon the ecosystem, demanding policy responses. When this chain of cause and effect is harmful , ‘unsustainable development’ is taking place.  Most SoE reports that utilize DPSIR model are framed by a three-dimensional understanding of the eco-sphere as a system: the ‘environmental’ system encompasses ‘economic’ and ‘social’ systems. However, while three-dimensional systems theory does provide an adequate ‘objective’ explanation of eco-system cause-and-effect, societies can and often do disregard system constraints. It might even be argued that social disregard for eco-system functioning is the key source of unsustainable development.

In response to this situation, a four-domain approach to DPSIR-based SoE reporting is proposed. The approach focuses attention upon DP and S indicators in each of the Ecological, Economic, Political and Cultural domains, and upon I and R indicators across each domain. The four-domain approach builds upon pioneering work by Herman Daly and John Cobb Jr and draws upon and expands the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment guidelines for identifying Driving Forces. It emphasises the ecological (material) resources, economic (efficient) values, political (formal) structural and cultural (final) drivers that ‘force’ unsustainable development. The approach provides an alternative to the three-dimensional models, which can obscure ‘forcings’ related to political issues such as control and regulation and, more importantly, to cultural issues, such as the belief systems, ideals of wellbeing and narratives of identity that provide the meaningful context for ecological, economic and political drivers.



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