Islands of sustainability: a bottom-up approach towards sustainable development

H. P. Wallner, Michael Narodoslawsky, F. Moser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we introduce the concept of 'islands of sustainability'. The basic assumption is that the development towards sustainability can be introduced starting from sustainable 'islands'. An island is an area where sustainability is reached at a local or regional level. Exchange activities within the regional network and with the environment are key points in creating an island of sustainability. One of the main theses is that the concept of sustainability addresses not only the interactions between the economic system and the ecosphere, but also structural aspects of the anthropogenic system, such as the economic diversity and economic connectedness. Hence, sustainability is linked to the complexity of the regional network. In order to attain sustainability the intensity, the speed, and comprehensiveness of internal and external interactions, as well as the connectedness of the regional network, have to be changed. In this paper we examine the regional system. The structure, elements, interactions, and boundaries of the regional system are discussed in detail. This systems analysis is the basis of the definition of islands of sustainability. Once we reach sustainable development within islands, we then turn our discussion to the change of the whole unsustainable economic system. Islands of sustainability can be seen as 'trouble-makers' which infiltrate the whole unsustainable system and act as cells of development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1763-1778
JournalEnvironment and Planning / A
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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