Economic Growth and Sustainability - Chapter 8: The “I”s Have It: A Systems View of Sustainability

Elsevier, Economic Growth and Sustainability, Chapter 8, 2015, Pages 95–111
Karen Higgins


Chapter 8 finds that two small “i” words, “integration” and “interdependence,” have big implications for sustainability. It integrates factors from previous chapters into a system diagram and illustrates the extensive interdependence among the sustainability triad: economy, environment, and society. To reflect both growth and limits to growth, this diagram adds feedback loops to the existing three loops in our mental model. The new loops include systemic effects of environmental damage, nonrenewable energy depletion, and population growth. A new values loop adds sustainable well-being to counterbalance short-term gratification. Counterintuitive behaviors become apparent when we trace relationships in the diagram. We will subsequently use it to identify effective interventions that move us toward sustainability. The chapter visually reminds us that everything is connected and that we must take care to understand unintended consequences of our actions.