Many methods promise to offer insights about aspects of sustainability. The Societal Metabolism Analysis at the heart of the MAGIC project differs from most by offering a way to characterise patterns of consumption and production associated with the metabolic patterns of different systems, thus enabling analysts to look across sectors and scales. This method supports an integrative and holistic perspective that can be used to reflect on the long-term feasibility and viability of existing and alternative social-ecological systems. This helps us better understand – and plan for – Europe’s contributions to the interconnected Sustainable Development Goals of UN Agenda 2030. This briefing explains some basic concepts of MuSIASEM, some examples of its application, and gives sources of further information.
Funds and flows Funds are the underpinning components of Social-Ecological Systems, either biophysical (e.g. soils, aquifers) or societal (e.g. available workforce, infrastructure). Flows are consumed resources such as freshwater or agrochemicals or produced resources such as crops or consumable products. Flows include also wastes i.e. unwanted by-products. Fund elements require flows of inputs order to maintain themselves and produce flows of outputs. Any social-ecological system can only sustain the consumption and production of flows at certain rates, without its funds becoming exhausted or degraded. For example, high rates of water extraction may deplete an aquifer, whilst requiring a workforce to work very long hours will limit their efficiency or hasten departure. MuSIASEM describes how flows and funds relate to each other, so helping to identify unsustainable use of biophysical or societal resources.
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