Gis for sustainable development
Economic, social, and environmental processes are inherently spatial. They can hardly be fully understood without taking into account their spatial dimensions. The relationship between man and the environment cannot be represented without a reference to a special location, because the environment is described by the topological relationships among physical objects (e.g., the soil or the air composition in a given space-time location, the solar radiation on a given piece of land), and human activities produce impacts on the environment spatially.
As introduced in the previous section, Agenda 21 focuses both on special objectives — the objects — and on the ways to be followed to pursue these objectives — the processes. The object is related to solving spatial problems, while the process implies sharing knowledge for collaborative, transparent, and participatory decisionmaking. Both serve to achieve the higher objectives set by the principles of sustainable development.
GIScience has been proven to offer theories, methods, and applications to effectively support the following categories of tasks, which together find wide space for application in the implementation of Agenda 21 to fulfill the principle of sustainable development:
• Producing and maintaining geographic information (by definition)
• Supporting distributed access to (environmental) information (i.e., spatial data infrastructures)
• Solving spatial problems (i.e., spatial analysis and environmental modeling)
• Supporting collaborative decision-making (i.e., group spatial decisionmaking)
• Supporting public participation (i.e., public participation GIS)
In planning, decision-making, and management GIS may be considered just one among the most advanced tools available to deal with complex problems — the spatial problems — in a balanced mediation of economic, environmental, and social objectives. It is an essential tool though, which, when properly used, may offer effective support to spatial planning and decision-making, because the geographical component of the problem at hand is determinant when dealing with sustainable development. Thus, geospatial technologies should be a driving engine in the technical, but also socio-organizational, implementation of knowledge-based open and integrated platforms for informed analysis, collaborative problem solving, planning, and decision-making.
According to this general premise, this book presents recent research results and case studies which offer a diverse perspective of the problem at hand, taking into account methodological and technical — but also organizational and societal — issues related to the use of GIS to solve complex problems faced by practitioners in planning and implementing sustainable development objectives.
The aim is to deal with a wide range of topics related to how GIS application may contribute to improve vertical and horizontal collaboration in decision-making among all the actors involved in sustainable development processes at all institutional levels (national, regional, and local). The growth in spatial data availability and the developments in GIScience allow us to carry on “informational planning” processes (analysis, design, evaluation, decision, management, and communication). In fact, whatever the planning paradigm adopted, a knowledge-based approach is required to carry on sustainable development processes.