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Sustainability 2014, 6(3), 1594-1622; doi:10.3390/su6031594

Linking Complexity and Sustainability Theories: Implications for Modeling Sustainability Transitions

School of Public Leadership, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, Western Cape, South Africa
These authors contributed equally to this work.
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Received: 28 November 2013 / Revised: 5 March 2014 / Accepted: 6 March 2014 / Published: 24 March 2014
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Abstract

In this paper, we deploy a complexity theory as the foundation for integration of different theoretical approaches to sustainability and develop a rationale for a complexity-based framework for modeling transitions to sustainability. We propose a framework based on a comparison of complex systems’ properties that characterize the different theories that deal with transitions to sustainability. We argue that adopting a complexity theory based approach for modeling transitions requires going beyond deterministic frameworks; by adopting a probabilistic, integrative, inclusive and adaptive approach that can support transitions. We also illustrate how this complexity-based modeling framework can be implemented; i.e., how it can be used to select modeling techniques that address particular properties of complex systems that we need to understand in order to model transitions to sustainability. In doing so, we establish a complexity-based approach towards modeling sustainability transitions that caters for the broad range of complex systems’ properties that are required to model transitions to sustainability.
Keywords: complexity; sustainability; resilience; decoupling; socio-metabolism; behavioral change; transitions; self-organization; emergence; undecidability complexity; sustainability; resilience; decoupling; socio-metabolism; behavioral change; transitions; self-organization; emergence; undecidability
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Peter, C.; Swilling, M. Linking Complexity and Sustainability Theories: Implications for Modeling Sustainability Transitions. Sustainability 2014, 6, 1594-1622.

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