Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Systems Approaches to Transdisciplinary Sustainable Development Issues Public Deposited

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  • The goals of this dissertation are twofold. The first is to advance the discipline of sustainability science through the application of systems-based tools (primarily system dynamics) and civil engineering principles. Sustainability science is fundamental to implementing effective strategies for progressing sustainable development and improving human well-being around the planet, but it is still not fully developed as a science and needs new methods and approaches due to the field’s inherent interdisciplinarity and complexity. Civil engineering as a foundation provides mathematical knowledge, computer modeling skills, and a wide breadth of technical understanding, but it lacks the societal, political, and economic transdisciplinary knowledge that sustainable development issues require and that the social sciences possess. Therefore, the second goal of this dissertation is to propose a new systems-based methodology that can analyze complex issues, usually addressed by social scientists, using analytical and engineering methods that are typically employed by technical scientists. This technique is called qualitative structural data analysis (QSDA) and is designed to take theories from the social sciences and, through a form of text analysis, use them to construct causal-loop diagrams and system dynamics models. Quantitative systems tools – cross-impact analysis, system dynamics modeling, and network analysis – can be used to further model the issues that have already been qualitatively analyzed using QSDA. Some issues are better suited to be analyzed qualitatively, some are more appropriate for quantitative tools, and others can be modeled through mixed-methods. With these quantitative tools, specifically system dynamics modeling, a new system archetype is introduced that can be applied to most, if not all, areas of sustainable development, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the water-energy-land-food (WELF) nexus, urbanization, hydropolitics, conflict, corruption, and natural resource governance. Three versions of the archetype are presented: a two-chambered and extended linear form, a three-chambered triangular form, and a four-chambered hierarchical form. The different versions can be used for modeling various social processes that are usually reserved for the social sciences and qualitative methods. The work presented in this thesis applies the QSDA technique and the new system archetypes to several issues of sustainable development.
Date Issued
  • 2019
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  • 2019-11-14
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