Action plans for sustainability implies a balance between current development of society, economy and environment, and the chance to give the same opportunities to future generations. Moreover, these plans require a transition to less materialistic values and lifestyles in communities. Happiness is included as one of those values that can be beneficial for sustainability, and is related to life quality and the level of freedom in society. Consequently, happiness is positively correlated to good governance, local autonomy, strength of civil society, health, material comfort, social equality, access of knowledge, economic wealth, and the cultural environment (Zidanšek, 2007). On the other hand, the characteristics of people’s surroundings influence their well-being and play an important role in determining what makes people happy (Brereton, Clinch, & Ferreira, 2008).
One important factor contributing to individuals’ happiness is the activities or practices that they choose to do, as actions that require effort and hard work are more beneficial for long-term happiness than superficial changes in circumstances. The relation between happiness and sustainability is associated to this factor. Therefore, efforts in aligning basic requirements for sustainable development with human needs for happiness and life satisfaction could lead to the emergence of a global sustainable civilization (Zidanšek, 2007). At this point, the empowerment of individuals and organizations towards sustainability becomes truly relevant as it responds to the modification of their strategies and values, and to the improvement of their life quality standards. Furthermore, as sustainability and happiness work together in strengthening societies’ development, it is expected that happier citizens will be more willing to support and be involved in sustainability initiatives. Thus, the analysis of happiness and wellbeing in a community becomes a central topic to be discussed when talking about the materialization of a sustainable development vision in a territory.
Texel is an island located in the northwest of the Netherlands with a regular population of approximately 13,600 inhabitants. The main economic activities of the island are tourism, fishing and agriculture. Nature and landscape are varied, and part of the dunes area in the west was designated as a National Park. Even though Texel set the goal of becoming a sustainable island by 2020, there are a variety of interests and perspectives regarding how to achieve such sustainability among different actors, which represents the main challenge the island faces towards the achievement of its ambitious goal (Boissevain & Selwyn, 2004).
The search for happiness, health and well-being can be considered a shared goal among actors in Texel. Initiatives in such field are relevant for the island’s sustainability goals as they can support the creation of a new identity for citizens based on new-shared values, norms and lifestyles towards becoming a sustainable community. The sub-system is going to be addressed to answer the following research questions: How does a sustainable Texel look like that empowers its citizens and visitors towards a more sustainable and happier lifestyle? What is needed to achieve this?
This report is focused on giving a wide perspective of the challenges related to happiness, health and well-being that Texel is currently facing in order to become a sustainable island. Furthermore, sustainability goals and future state for this sub-system are defined as a basis for future work.
As a starting point of the analysis, the analysis of the sub-system was divided into two main topics to define its relevance for the Texel case: Life quality standards and Citizens’ empowerment towards sustainability. Firstly, Life quality standards are related to the general well-being and living of the population; it includes factors such as good governance, health, ecological diversity, access to exercise and relaxation spaces, and access to healthy food. Moreover, this part of the sub-system represent the joint points with the other sub-systems towards a sustainable Texel. Finally, Citizens’ empowerment towards sustainability refers to the level of involvement and awareness of citizens with the sustainability goal, and the development of individual or collective initiatives to support the goals' achievement. The last point is believed to be the critical point that the sub-system of health and happiness has to contribute to maintain Texel's sustainability goal in the long-term. The later because the commitment of citizens and visitors to switch their lifestyle and values towards a less materialistic ones is vital to create a sustainable society.
This report is the initial exploration of the system to identify our research path. Chapter one presents general information of the current initiatives related to the sub-system. Chapter 2 analyses the societal needs related to the sub-system. Finally, chapter three analyses the sustainability challenges present in the system, the goals related to them and their possible future state.
1. Current initiatives related to the sub-system
In this chapter, the information regarding two current initiatives present in the system is presented as reference for future work.
The Buurthuizen in the Netherlands were founded at the end of the 19th century. They are used as means for public and cultural education, and for meetings and recreational activities. Texel has 2 community centers: De Hof Dorpshuis and De Waldhoorn Dorpshuis.
1.2 De Zelfpluktuin
Since 1994, located between Oldchild and DenBerg, Zelfpluktuin is a free entry garden where groups of family tourist can enjoy and let their children picking up chemical-free fruit, vegetable and flower from the garden. The garden will be set ready to be picked-up while the time that the visitors arrive. The pick able vegetations are depended on season (harvest calendar), there the tourists can choose their own desire fruits or vegetable or flower from the tree. The picked-up fruits will be weighted afterward, then the visitors can enjoy them as they prefer.
The main target of tourists in Zelfpluktuin are family with children (0-14), youth (15-21), senior, adults group, young and old family with dog. The entire garden is wheelchair accessible and there is a disable toilet. Here, children often find it extraordinary to see and being educated how fruit grows and it's exciting to pick it themselves.
Understanding of local food production gives the feeling of social activity participation to children that they can participate also with their family which the result is closer relationship between family members. With chemical-free product from nature also create human-environment relationship which affects the children to concern more about nature when they grow up. However, it is definitely enjoy and relax moment activity for everybody in the family.
2. Health and happiness Sub-system's societal needs
Figure 1: Pyramid chart of societal needs
Gaianomy as a theory tries to analyse the impact changes in other constituting institutions will have on the Economy. From pyramid chart (Figure 1), Texel's health and happiness sub-system covers all parts above the “Progress” line, but only some parts above the “Prosperity” line such as institution, peace, social justice and social integration. However, in order to foster the development of the island towards a sustainable one some factors are needed such as wealth, diplomacy (communication to outside), and research and development. One key value present in the island is the proud the population feels of being Texelaars, which result in a strong community; however, it creates a downside situation where an idea from the "outside" may be hardly accepted or successfully implemented in the island. Consequently, empowerment seems to become critical to foster collaboration within the islanders to promote their own sustainability goal, and with outsiders to gain relevant new insights that can be capitalized.
Another relevant issue to analyse from the pyramid of needs are the healthcare facilities in the island. There are five doctors' practices on Texel (four in Den Burg and one in De Cocksdorp) and one dialysis center in Oosterend. The nearest hospital is on mainland in Den Helder. Accessing by ambulance to the island in case of “life threatening situations” is difficult, such emergencies use the services of the ferry, which provides non-planned trips in case of emergency. Moreover, there is a movement towards elderly care in the island because, at this moment, some senior citizens need to go to England to be in a care facility. Thus, with the of senior citizens projection to increase in the future, this issue has the potential to gain relevance.
On the other hand, there are groups of local people in Texel trying to improve life quality in the island by push out campaigns or movements. Example of these groups are Ten for Texel and Texels Belang. From the website of Texels Belong, some conclusions can be drawn about issues that concern locals such as:
- They need an independent municipality to perform their own affairs.
- They want to maintain the core value of Texel while improving tourist industry.
- They want more social housing for young people.
- They want to preserve second education level in the island, including high school and secondary professional education.
- They want an active sport area.
- They need improvement in healthcare, and an ambulance that remain stationed in the island.
- They need to keep nursing facilities (Hollewal) to let the elders spend their old age in Texel.
- They want the Shelter workshop “De Bolder” to remain on the island.
- They need access to fresh fish markets for fisherman to be able to distribute their product without middlemen.
3. Analysis of the sustainability challenges related to the sub-system
This chapter analyses the sustainability challenges related to the two main topics found on the sub-system relevant to understand its impact on Texel's sustainability goals: Life quality standards and Citizens’ empowerment towards sustainability.
3.1 Sustainability challenges related to life quality
The island of Texel approximately has land area of 16 Ha which is situated in the Wadden area, northwest of the Netherlands. It consists of seven villages, which are Den Burg, De Cocksdorp, De Koog, De Waal, Oosterend, and Oudeschild. Den Burg as the main village has 7.000 inhabitants in current condition. Each village has its own character and mentality, although all the Texel people still have a homogenous local cultural identity. (Boissevain and Selwyn, 2004)
Tourism is the main source of income in Texel, where 75% of the people are relied on it. The second source of income on the island is agriculture, even though the number of farms have decreased by 48 from 1985 until 2000. Economic statistic of The Netherlands in 2010 shows that 3.300 people in Texel work on commercial services field, 1.500 people on non-commercial services field, 700 people on industry and construction field, and only 170 people on agriculture and fisheries. (Texel.net, 2014)
The number of overnight stay tourist have increase tremendously by nearly 50% in five years time with the average length of stay is 6 to 7 nights. It was recorded that in 2009, 3.886.350 tourist stayed overnight in Texel. Furthermore, TESO service and municipality of Texel mentioned that total tourist expenses for overnight and day, reached € 256.236.850. (Texel.net, 2014)
Particular reasons why the tourist visit Texel are because of its forest, tranquility, beach, opportunity to enjoy nature by walking and cycling. The other reasons are because of the fresh air, feeling of an island, feeling of freedom, and relaxation.
3.1.1 Challenges related to life quality
Since tourism is the main source of income in Texel, It leads to different way of living there and brings impacts in terms of livability. Although it has been a discussion that the impact of tourism is not the only factor that affects the livability in Texel, but also by the context of politics, policies, and planning.
Recent surveys from Lengkeek and Van der Velden in 2000 summarized several issues that were distinguished. First of all tourism leads to two distinctive aspects which on one hand brings more traffic, turmoil on the island, and several other drawbacks and on the other hand brings more income, jobs and quality of services. (Boissevain and Selwyn, 2004)
Secondly, tourism has threatened the continuity of agriculture as a result of conversion of agricultural land into extension land for tourism businesses. Furthermore it brings affects to the local identity, culture, and architecture. There is also trust issue about the role and the ability of the local government address the external influences.
Generally speaking, people from Texel have high sense of belonging of their island. Local party and local action group preserve and strengthen their local identity by representing the interest of the agriculture sector and livability issue.
People in Texel can be considered to have a homogenous cultural identity, however every village has its own characteristic, for example De Koog appeals to the tourist, De Hoorn has an agricultural community, and Oudeschild is a fishermen village. Some islanders support the tourism development in the island but some feel that their freedom is limited by the presence of the tourist. The amount of camping areas that intrude the farms, traffic jams, and crowding on the island are several reasons that have been debated by the islanders. The intention of the tourists to transform the island into their places in order to feel familiar with the place is creating and undermining the construction of place at the same time. (Boissevain and Selwyn, 2004)
Dependences on the tourism in terms of local economy is the main social issue in the island. Tourism development has been judged as a dominant yet vulnerable basis for the island’s economy. It can be said that the general income in the island is rather low and depends on the peak holiday season which leads to a fact that most of the islanders have more than three different jobs in order to compensate their income in the low season.
3.1.2 Outlines of the future socio-technical system
Texel, as an tourism island, has close link lo cultural, social, economic and political practices as well. Tourism brings benefits and drawbacks at the same time to the quality of life of the islanders. Tourism brings positive economic impacts to the island, however quality of life of the islanders are being disrupted and major dependency only on tourism is not an ideal strategy to have a balance economic condition.
In the future, the ambition is to have equity in the minimum standards of life quality for all islanders. In order to achieve it, proper strategies are needed to improve the economic balance and quality of life of the islanders. The main source of income of the island had shifted from agriculture to tourism years ago, which brings impacts on the livability of the islanders. Agricultural development had been obstructed by natural conservation and environmental regulation, though agricultural development can brings plenty of benefits to the island’s economy besides of only depend on tourism. At this point, is relevant for the development of this sub-system to work closely with all the others to ensure that the initiatives are aligned in order to bring equity and a real improvement of the life quality.
3.2 Sustainability challenges related to empowerment
People from Texel do not feel connected to (sustainability) ideas that come from the mainland. One could argue if the inhabitants of the Dutch island of Texel are actually Dutch. Texelaars (Texel's inhabitants) have a strong identity through which they differentiate themselves from the regular Dutch people living on the mainland. The islanders have their own dialect of the Dutch language and they have their own annual feast called Sunderklaas (it has nothing to do with Sinterklaas) on the 12th of december (Ronde, 2011). This strong identity creates a strong community of Texelaars. The community is focussed on self-preservation of the community of Texel and their culture and habits. Unfortunately, this community is not that open to outsiders and their ideas for change from the Dutch mainland.
Transitioning towards a more sustainable Texel, and therefore altering the identity of the Texelaar, can prove to be difficult considering this strong identity and community. To accomplish this transition, it is important that there is acceptance and support from the community itself.
3.2.1 Challenges related to empowerment
Unwillingness of inhabitants to start and keep doing actions to become a truly sustainable society. Transitioning to a more sustainable Texel is a lengthy process. To ensure the success of this process, it is essential that the Texelaars do not only accept this transition, but that they also support it. This means that the inhabitants have to become an integral part of this sustainable transition and the eventual solution.
Creating support and acceptance from the community is twofold. On one hand, it focuses on creating local enthusiasm and active support for this transition, and on the other hand, it is also about anticipating on resistance from the inhabitants or other stakeholders connected to this transition. Depending on the context of the project, resistance can lead to alterations to planning, implementation, execution or can even eventually lead to a unsuccessful transition. (Mourik, Feenstra & Raven, 2007)
This resistance can originate from various different sources. Good or bad experiences with sustainable solutions, or the general lack of interest for sustainability are amongst the many reasons why one would become reluctant to support or accept the transition. The impact that this transition might have on their daily life and surroundings eventually shapes their opinion on the transition. The challenge is to shape this impact, or these changes, in a way that they are appealing to the inhabitants of Texel.
3.2.2 Goals towards empowerment of inhabitants
To ensure a successful sustainable transition, preventing or dealing with resistance from inhabitants is very important. Most resistance can be dealt with by allowing for participation. Through the years, many participative methods have been developed to create more acceptance and support in communities, such as: Information, Explanation and Negotiation. Negotiating with the island's community could shed more light on some of the doubts that the inhabitants have in relation to this project, whilst explaining why this project is shaped in this way could also increase the acceptance or support for the project.
In order to for this sustainable transition to be a success, the result of the transition should become a part of the identity of the Texelaar. By empowering the Texelaars, the islanders themselves could contribute greatly to the sustainability of their island. Empowerment happens "when people, individually or collectively, concieve of, define and pursue better lives for themselves." (Oswald & Ruedin, 2012) This empowerment could be realised by a platform supporting local sustainability related projects. By empowering these Texelaars, they could become an essential part of the sustainable solution for the island.
3.2.3 Outline of the future socio-technical subsystem
How would our future socio-technical subsystem look if the inhabitants would be involved?
In our socio-technical subsystem, sustainability would have become a part of the identity of the Texelaar. Texelaars themselves would get involved with projects such as De Zelfpluktuin, or through empowerment, they would be able to set up their own sustainable projects. Empowerment processes tend to be financially supported through projects and programmes rather than through direct budget support (Oswald & Ruedin, 2012). This means that there is room for a platform through which people can set up their own sustainable project.
The sub-system of Happiness and health have a critical role in the achievement of the goal of a sustainable Texel, especially because is the one responsible for empowering Texelaars to initiate and get involved with projects related to sustainability, and to create an urgency to switch local values and lifestyle towards less materialistic ones that allows the creation of a sustainable society in the island. There are several challenges that need to be faced in order to achieve the sub-system goals in terms of equity in life quality for all inhabitants, and 100% of population and visitors empowered towards sustainability. For future work, the analysis of this sub-system is going to be focused on how to create, promote and sustain empowerment towards sustainability initiatives and lifestyles in the population. Consequently, a later work that needs to be done towards life quality is to establish the connection of empowerment initiatives with the ones from the other sub-systems, as the improvement of life quality is expected to be a final result of the whole system.
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