Islands at Risk - Analyzing Resource-use Dynamics from a Socio-metabolic Research Perspective

Our resource-use dynamics have contributed significantly to the improvement in global material standards of living through the provisioning of essential societal services. Nonetheless, these dynamics have also impacted on the already limited natural resource-base of the Earth system on which we depend. Moreover, the characteristics of a global self-perpetuating resource-use linearity, the growing demand for finite raw materials, the high waste generation that remains unrecovered, and the increasing negative effects of climate change further exacerbate the Earth system’s vulnerabilities and exposure to risks. As such, the resource-use dynamics is posited as an important example of complex systems in need for better understanding, particularly in advancing towards sustainability and build system’s resilience. For resource-stressed settings like small island nations, the analysis of these complex systems is not only crucial, but urgent. Small Island Developing States are often characterized by sustainability challenges like limited resource-bases, reduced waste absorption capacity, a strong dependency on external resources to meet their basic needs, geographic isolation from markets which impact connectivity and resource supply, and natural and built environment that is progressively been threatened by the negative effects of climate change, which amplify the pre-existing vulnerabilities and risks for these territories. Thus, dealing with sustainability would require a deeper understanding of the interactions and trade-offs between the resource-use dynamics and the influences that internal/external factors like climate change have over these. By doing so, the system will have the ability to both contribute to global environment change, but also determine their own vulnerability or resilience to those changes. This thesis analyzes resource-use dynamics from a socio-metabolic research perspective in the context of small islands to enhance resource security and build system’s resilience, by looking into the way in which natural resources are interconnected, influenced, and managed. The analysis is spread across three main empirical Chapters, each of which contribute to advancing the arguments that arise from this work. First, in Chapter 3, the thesis analyzes the shifting resource-baselines of water, energy, and food, emphasizing the intra- and interconnected nature between essential resources and socio-metabolic risk, which builds the foundations for deeper analysis on current and future sustainability in small islands. Then, in Chapter 4, the thesis analyzes and identifies the size and make-up of material and energy flows specific to an individual case study, bringing important quantitative and qualitative insights on the potentials that reconfigured resource-use patterns may offer to minimizing or reducing socio-metabolic risk in small islands. Next, in Chapter 5, the thesis analyzes the role that critical material stocks play in driving resource-use and in furthering sustainable development, emphasizing climate change adaptation strategies to build system’s resilience. The overall framework of this thesis has demonstrated how a better understanding of resource-use dynamics may offer an opportunity to achieve resource security and self-reliance as a resilience building measure in the island context. Finally, this thesis encourages for the development and application of holistic and long-term resource management strategies through inclusive, climate and nature-based solutions that consider the trade-offs and synergies between different resource-use dynamics.

Associated spaces

Antigua & Barbuda , Aruba , Bahamas , Barbados , Cuba , Dominica , Dominican Republic , Grenada , Haiti , Jamaica , Saint Kitts and Nevis , Saint Vincent and the Grenadines , Trinidad and Tobago

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