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Argentina - The territorial indicators of sustainability

1999, by Roberto P. Guimaraes

A text was proposed by CTERA (Argentinean Confederation of Education Workers) on this subject, in the framework of an “EE course for sustainable development”. An abridged version of this text is presented below:

“Both the debate about sustainable development and the literature about regional development evince the territorial dimensions of economy and social life. However, taking into account that the potential of such analytical traditions weakens when one talks about measuring how far from development and sustainability is a given region, or when one tries to implement policies that manage to incorporate such objectives, the study reviews several initiatives for building non-economical development indicators and suggests new modalities of territorial sustainability indicators.

In the first place, the most relevant domains of regional development are introduced when the debate is based on the dialectics between the exogenous and endogenous dimensions of such a process, and on the identification of the variables and the necessary articulation between regional development factors, such as local culture and ethics, as well as the availability of psychosocial and knowledge-related material and human resources.

In the second place, the most recent statements of sustainable development are introduced by drawing attention to the ecological transition that humankind is going through and that corresponds to problems that are much older than the fashion of environmental concerns (which is just a few decades old), for the era of the occupation of this planet began several millennia ago, especially with the Agricultural Revolution. On this basis, specific operational variables, dimensions and criteria are suggested in order to establish the cross-generation viability and to implement sustainable development policies.

Lastly, after analyzing significant indicator-building experiences (i.e. the Human Development Index, the Sustainable Economic Well-being Index, the ecological impact and the environmental space), a matrix is proposed, combining 17 territorial sustainability dimensions through 5 forms of capital (natural, built, human, social and institutional), which are then separated in specific indicators and statistics.

The study concludes with a brief analysis of the criteria that should guide the selection of the indicators that are considered as the most relevant, in particular the need to promote a democratic process that ensures citizens’ participation, since the main objectives of the indicators are contributing to prevent risks or negative trends in community development, determining concrete problems, specifying consensus goals through a democratic process in order to overcome them, designing a possible future, providing the elements of a cartography, and formulating public policies able of accomplishing the role of instruments for the necessary changes in terms of attitudes and behavior.”
By using the metaphor of new kites to be flown, the text is organized in six chapters titled as follows:

- About the need to fly an innovating kite (the link between regional development and sustainable development)
- Getting ready for the flight (a regional glance to the development process)
- Getting a bit higher (a glance to sustainable development)
- Approaching the runway (sustainability dimensions and criteria)
- Getting ready for landing (indicators of sustainable development)
- New flight plans and new kites (again regarding the future of indicators)

SOURCES : Article by Roberto Guimaraes (1999) in Curso de Posgrado en Educacion en Ambiente para el Desarrollo Sustentable. Escuela Pedagogica y Sindical "Marina Vilte". CTERA
(CTERA : Argentinean Confederation of Education Workers)
KEY WORDS: Environmental Education; Sustainable development; Indicators of Sustainable Development; Eco-citizenship.
AUTHOR: Christian Souchon, Polis Network, P.O. Box 4, 84100 Ermoupolis, Greece, Fax: 30 / 281 / 87840, email:
CONTACT : Laura Maffei, Carlos Galano. CTERA. Rivadavia 3623.1204 Buenos Aires,
Argentine, email: