Published April 1, 2007 | Version v1
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Developing new methods and tools for the integrated sustainability assessment of water. The MATISSE project and the Ebro river basin. MATISSE working papers No 8.

  • 1. Institute for Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Description

Persistent unsustainable problems are not problems occurring ‘out there’, independently from our individual and collective behaviours in our daily interactions with the environment. Most current methods and tools for the assessment and management of unsustainability tend to focus on representing apparently-distant biophysical changes, rather than deepening the understanding of personal and agents’ behaviours, motives and values. They therefore tend to show unsustainability problems as problems of “others”’. In practice, existing assessment methods and tools tend to limit their scope of assessment to one single area of reality, deal only with one type of knowledge and, often, are addressed to the wrong communities of action and change. The EU MATISSE project aims at developing new reflective methods and tools capable of overcoming some of these pitfalls by supporting the co-production of socially and ecologically robust, and systemic narratives and visions that may stimulate transition learning and action on persistent unsustainability problems.
Such narratives and visions, we argue, can be better developed, within the context of the new approach of Integrated Sustainability Assessment (ISA), if they take relational agent-based perspective.
Our paper provides a first description of an application of ISA to river basin management within the context of the EU project MATISSE. ,The paper reports on the application of the first stages of the ISA process framework (scoping and visioning) using participatory approaches in a case-study of the Ebro river basin. First results show that an emerging vision of sustainability entails a great deal of collaboration between agents working at different levels, as opposed to a fragmented world in which actors pursue their interests and benefits in an un-coordinated, exploitative and short-sighted manner. In their vision, stakeholders underline how multi-scale, multi-domain and multi-time problems such as the relationships between upstream/downstream, global/local, and shortterm/long-term socio-economic processes need to be incorporated into the assessment and policy processes aimed at enhancing the socioecological resilience and sustainability of complex water systems such as the Ebro river basin.

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