The paper presents integrated systems analysis (ISA) as a “tool” for modelling and for the development of decision support systems (DSS). ISA enhances understanding of the complex relationships between different systems in the form of inputs > transformations > outputs and also facilitates an understanding of the term sustainable systems for sustainable living through human intervention. Further, the paper presents general and specific models of ISA for sustainable systems and sustainable living.

KEYWORDS: integrated systems analysis, decision support systems, sustainable systems, sustainable living, human intervention.


The term “sustainable development” (WCED, 1987) created great confusion in the scientific community as soon as it entered general use. Further, due to the difficulties of explaining this term, the terms “sustainability” and “reducing a footprint” have also been used, also without much success. (Martens, 2006; Kemp & Martens, 2007)

However, for decades, the term “sustainable development” has been postulated and accepted, worldwide, as a term which means “development” which can be “sustained” for an indefinite period. This implication has resulted in the acceptance of a “business as usual” political and public attitude throughout the industrial world, despite the fact that widely available scientific evidence postulates that a “business as usual” approach will not be possible into the indefinite future. In addition, the general concepts of sustainability, practical implementation and how this issue should be managed have never been explained.

On the basis of the above, it is, therefore, considered that the term “sustainable development” should be immediately and universally discarded. “Sustainable development” as a term, or an idea, is leading the world community towards a totally unsustainable global future.

For example, the maintenance of stainable living for all species currently living on our planet is universally acknowledged as impossible. “Sustainable development” which must, necessarily, strain current living standards even more is obviously and clearly impossible.

Further, on the basis of the above and of all climate change experienced in recent years, the terms “sustainable development”, “sustainability” and “reducing a footprint” are quite simply hypocritical and illusory.

It is considered that the world has now entered a new era of “sustainable destruction” and this situation requires urgent and immediate explanation to the general public, including politicians and decision makers. The current inaction, or “business as usual” approach is no longer possible. Major decisions must be made, if we are to break the impasses of sustainable destruction as soon as possible. New paradigms for actions, strategies and implementations need to be developed.

It is considered that the greatest future impacts on the environment will be caused by two factors: population growth and human activities.

Currently, the rate of destruction is widely acknowledged as greater than the rate of improvement, and so the word’s current population has been undermining our joint future livelihood at an ever-increasing pace. In plain terms, this means that our current actions are undermining our children’s future existence.

It is considered that the concept of integrated systems analysis will be a vital tool for maintaining future existence.

Integrated systems analysis

The concept of integrated systems analysis (ISA) was researched in relation to sustainable development in 2002 (Soroczynski, 2002). The author of this paper developed the definition of ISA and two models: general and specific were presented.

However, the author of the paper has not explained that the world environmental systems consist of systems such as climate, oceans, rivers, forests, agriculture, etc. In turn these systems consist of component systems. The 2002 paper also did not describe or provide the definition of a component system.

A component system could be chemicals, chemical elements, bacteria, and distribution patterns, as well as chemical/bacteriological processes, physical processes, population, and man made components such as transport, power generation and mega cities. The fact that different component systems are performing different functions in different systems is a very important consideration, as performance of systems may be altered. Human activities are also altering balance and performance of component systems and the consequential performance of systems. The above considerations mean that this overall issue is very complex.

It is considered that human intervention is required to keep systems within certain boundaries which would be capable of maintaining sustainable systems for sustainable living. On the basis of the above, it is postulated that the terms sustainable systems, sustainable living and human intervention should be adopted.

It is proposed that ISA definition (Soroczynski, 2002) should be amended as follows:

“integrated systems analysis (ISA) (is) a “tool” for modelling and for the development of decision support systems (DSS). ISA enhances understanding of the complex relationships between different systems in the form of inputs > transformations > outputs and also facilitates an understanding of the term sustainable systems for sustainable living and human intervention . Further, the paper presents a definition and model of ISA and discusses performance of component systems or distribution patterns in relation to a time horizon. Some component systems create constraints and impact other component systems which over time undergo transformations such as self-organisation and self-regulation. Some component systems may adopt a distribution pattern as an output. Therefore, behaviour of component systems or distribution patterns may be defined as growth, decline, stable conditions or oscillation. On the basis of the above it is possible to apply an integration of disciplines by integrated analysis of relevant component systems. Further, the adoption of this approach promotes the conclusion that sustainable systems for sustainable living may be modelled, managed and maintained by control of the relevant component systems.”

(Note: words sustainable development has been substituted with sustainable systems for sustainable living and human intervention)

If, in order to maintain sustainable systems human intervention is required, the performance of such systems would, in this case, be changed. The perfect example of such systemic change is the climatic change currently experienced world-wide. It has, therefore, become necessary to amend the model of ISA presented in the paper published in 2002 (Soroczynski, 2002) to now include human intervention into the model of sustainable systems for sustainable living in acknowledgement of this fact. (Please see: Figure 1) The previous 2002 model was not clearly explained.

This new term sustainable systems for sustainable living explains the current situation much more clearly. Due to the fact that the world has entered a new era, the issue of sustainable living is becoming a very urgent political consideration. It is now, therefore, possible to conclude that the world has become an enormous chemical and biological plant in which a lot of processes need to be controlled by human intervention. It is obvious that the world will need many more specialists to monitor and manage the sustainable systems of the future for sustainable living.

It is also considered obvious that the world has entered a new era in which the performances of many natural systems have already been altered by human activities. Sustainable management of these systems requires an integrated approach by the application of ISA, and, as discussed, this is an extremely complex task. First, it is necessary to establish, the objectives, function, behaviour and performance of such systems, including their interaction with other systems. It is also necessary to monitor the performance of components of such systems.

Analysis of the climatic system is a good example of the possible practical application of ISA and DSS. It is considered that this system requires urgent human intervention.

Such intervention is justified on the following grounds: that this system effects all areas of human activities, for example availability of water, food production, health. Further, this system also underpins the future existence of humanity.

Whenever, a system is overloaded, the system changes its performance and will, in the end, become unsustainable. Examples of change engendered by the overloading of systems are; changes in climate world-wild, changes in the water quality in oceans, changes in Australia’s Murray Darling river systems and the salmon farming currently conducted in Tasmania and which is rapidly becoming unsustainable. Similar changes are taking place in other parts of the world. All these systems require human intervention if they are to become sustainable. Further, such human intervention needs to be supported by all available technologies.

The issue of “sustainable destruction” is discussed above. It is believed strongly that the problems of sustainable destruction, which is, of course, actually unsustainable destruction, and the allied problem of unsustainable human intervention should be adopted as urgent political issues by all governments that consider themselves responsible for the future welfare of their people.

Generally, systems can be classified as closed and opened systems. Closed systems are, for example, water supply systems, electricity distribution systems and transport systems etc. These systems can be easier to manage as the relevant component systems can be easily identified. Open systems are large environmental systems such as the climatic system, long rivers and oceans etc. These systems are difficult to manage as a great number of component systems may impact the performance of a system and some of these components are difficult to quantify at the beginning of any project. Some components are only identified later as they impact management of sustainable conditions.

Further, this issue should be politicized and any proposal/project should be evaluated on the basis of possible future destruction of the environment. New criteria need to be developed for evaluation of projects and new bases for decision makers need to be developed in relation to future possible destruction of the environment. On the basis of such an approach, many past projects may well be rejected as causing unsustainable destruction.

Sustainable systems

It is considered that wastewater systems present very good examples of systems, which are sustainable when new management practices and technologies have been applied.

The following components can be considered to be wastewater systems: domestic and industrial collection systems, (generally called wastewater), wastewater treatment plants as well as the collection and use of rainwater and disposal.

More than 100 years ago combined sewage systems, which also collected wastewater and rainwater, were constructed in large cities. These systems resulted in the pollution of receiving waters.

Now, however, separated systems are used, one for wastewater and another for rainwater. Further, initially rainwaters were not treated, while now, in many cities impurities are routinely removed from rainwater.

Further examples of sustainable systems include the application of new technologies for the treatment of wastewater. Initially, a primary treatment was used (removal of solid). However, the next improvement to be utilised was a secondary biological treatment in order to reduce the oxygen demand in receiving waters such as rivers and lakes and control processes.

The next stage in the improvement of processes was the introduction of a tertiary treatment to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from wastewaters in order to control biological processes and also to reduce the load on receiving waters.

Such gradual changes, to the relevant wastewater component systems outlined above, have now been taking place for more than one hundred years.

The examples discussed above illustrate human intervention which is intended to maintain critical sustainable systems for sustainable living. On the basis of these examples, it is possible to conclude that similar sustainability principles may be applied to other critical systems.

It is also considered feasible that such sustainability principles may possibly be applied to the world-wide climatic system in which changes that will possibly threaten human existence are currently occurring. It may also be considered possible to postulate that appropriate systems for the sustainability of future human life may result in a future of sustainable human living.


The complexity of opened systems is enormous and the need for appropriate human intervention to maintain sustainable systems is not well understood by the general public and politicians. Due to this complexity the scientists can’t, quite often, provide straight answers on how to manage any system. The extreme complexity of this issue needs to be conveyed to both the general public and politicians.

Politicians and the general public should also be informed that the world has now entered a new era of unsustainable destruction and that this situation should be reversed by any means which are necessary. It is essential to urgently identify which environmental systems need to be maintained by human intervention if they are to maintain sustainable life rather than become subject to a gross and possibly fatal and unsustainable decline.

The practical applications of integrated systems analysis (ISA) should facilitate making rational decisions (DSS) to maintain systems for sustainable living conditions. This task appears to be the greatest challenge for all governments and all inhabitants of our planet.


Kemp, R. & Martens, P. 2007. Sustainable development: how to manage something that is subjective and never can be achieved? Sustainability, Science, Practice & Policy 3(2). something-that-is-subjective-and-never-can-be-achieved

Kuhn, T. S. 1996. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The University of Chicago Press.

Martens, P. 2006. Sustainability: science or fiction? Sustainability: Science, Practice Policy 2(1): 1–5. f3429e3be00f#.62de15se2

Soroczynski, T. 1999, Integrated Systems Analysis of Population, Land and Water Resource, PhD thesis, University of New England, Australia, (unpublished).

Soroczynski, T. 2002, Integrated Systems Analyses and Sustainable Development’, the International Congress of the International Environmental Modelling and Software Society, 24–27 June 2002, University of Lugano,

Quoted by Global Water Partnership:

World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). 1987. OurCommon Future. New York: Oxford University Press.


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