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A new method for assessing the sustainability of land-use systems (I): Identifying the relevant issues

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  • Walter, Christof
  • Stützel, Hartmut
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    Abstract

    Definitions of sustainability abound. However, they tend to be abstract and thus open to diverging interpretations. Conversely, scientists need concrete guidance to develop quantitative measures of the sustainability of agricultural systems, such as sustainability indicators. Bridging this gap between what policy provides and what scientists need involves strong normative elements. Many publications on sustainable agriculture suggest bridging the gap through participatory stakeholder processes. However, participatory stakeholder involvement is not always practicable, due to the high cost and time required. In addition, the outcome of such processes can lack transparency and validity to outsiders. In this paper (the first of a series of two, [Walter, C. and Stützel, H., 2009-this issue. A new method for assessing the sustainability of land-use systems (II): Evaluating impact indicators. Ecological Economics]), we introduce an alternative method for concretising sustainability within a given context. It is based on a systematic inventory of potential issues through a structured literature review, and then uses a simple and transparent criterion to decide which of these potential issues is actually relevant within the given context. This approach yields a set of concrete issues against which to test the impact of agricultural production systems. It also makes transparent the normative and descriptive elements of the process, which helps to control value-driven biases. We demonstrate the practical applicability of this approach by testing it for an agricultural area in Northwest Germany.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 68 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 5 (March)
    Pages: 1275-1287

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:5:p:1275-1287

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

    Related research

    Keywords: Sustainable agriculture Indicators Sustainability assessment Life cycle assessment Severity ratios;

    References

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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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    1. Hansen, J. W., 1996. "Is agricultural sustainability a useful concept?," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 117-143.
    2. O'Hara, Sabine U., 1996. "Discursive ethics in ecosystems valuation and environmental policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 95-107, February.
    3. Tacconi, Luca, 1998. "Scientific methodology for ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 91-105, October.
    4. Ruttan, Vernon W., 1994. "Constraints on the design of sustainable systems of agricultural production," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 209-219, August.
    5. Rigby, Dan & Woodhouse, Phil & Young, Trevor & Burton, Michael, 2001. "Constructing a farm level indicator of sustainable agricultural practice," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 463-478, December.
    6. Walter, Christof & Stützel, Hartmut, 2009. "A new method for assessing the sustainability of land-use systems (II): Evaluating impact indicators," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 1288-1300, March.
    7. Jamieson, Dale, 1998. "Sustainability and beyond," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2-3), pages 183-192, February.
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    Cited by:
    1. Gomez-Limon, Jose Antonio & Riesgo, Laura, 2010. "Sustainability assessment of olive grove in Andalusia: A methodological proposal," 120th Seminar, September 2-4, 2010, Chania, Crete 109323, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    2. Walter, Christof & Stützel, Hartmut, 2009. "A new method for assessing the sustainability of land-use systems (II): Evaluating impact indicators," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 1288-1300, March.

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