Consensus as the Measure of Sustainability

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by Michael J. Bender, (A.M.ASCE),
Slobodan P. Simonovic, (M.ASCE),

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: North American Water and Environment Congress & Destructive Water:

Abstract: Sustainable development is the Holy Grail of the `90s. Yet, its practical implications seem to be elusive. Metrics for measuring the level of sustainability are eagerly sought. It is very difficult to capture the important features, and maintain many of the valued details, of environmental and social systems when complete or appropriate economic accounting is attempted. A much more transcendent and flexible metric may be consensus. Consensus as a sustainability metric describes the level in which stakeholders are satisfied with a solution to a question. Consensus assumes that an appropriate group of stakeholders is able to collaborate in assessing proposed solutions to environmental problems, or development initiatives. It also assumes that the collective best a group of stakeholders has to offer implicitly provides insight to the needs of future generations. This paper describes an approach for assessing a level of consensus. The benefits are: estimation of areas of common understanding; and clarification of conflicting values.

Subject Headings: Sustainable development | Metric systems | Environmental issues | Social factors | Economic factors | Financial management |

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