To be sustainable, development must strike a balance between the economic, social and environmental objectives of society, in order to maximise well-being in the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Sustainability is one of the major challenges facing Europe. In the future, it will not be possible to solve problems of sustainability without good science; good knowledge of environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability; and also without active behaviour of people leading to implementation of principles of sustainability. The problem of sustainability is now a challenge for all levels of society, including stakeholders and policy makers. Interest in sustainability is growing. Nevertheless, there is no platform where it is possible to learn more about problems of sustainability in different regions. Also there is no platform where it is possible for people to publish their information about a current situation, share their knowledge with other groups, and also share this knowledge with the scientific community.
This project will educate stakeholders and support decision makers regarding using tools and implementation of the EU's Strategy for Sustainable Development (SSD). The SSD (Communication (2001) 264 final) specifically mandates better involvement of the public in policy-making. For stakeholders to become fully involved in decision-making, they need to be able to understand impacts of proposed actions. This involves identifying not only direct effects, but also indirect effects of the proposed actions. Especially in complex environmental systems, keeping all the various direct and indirect effects straight can become quite difficult.
Developing and using models can help manage this complexity in at least two ways:
models make explicit what is included and excluded and how the included parts interact
- developing conceptual, causal models of systems builds understanding that can be transferred and applied to new situations
A major hurdle in developing programs to increase public understanding of sustainable development has been the lack of a suitable technology that can both include all the relevant interactions and scenarios and be understandable by non-experts. Therefore, an important focus of this project is to develop visualisation and interactivity tools to allow users to easily interpret the information available to them.