Chapter 2: Current State of the sub-system

What is the current socio-technical sub-system and its functions?

The socio-technical system is an extended version of Nelson and Winter’s (1982) technological regime, which referred to shared cognitive routines in an engineering community and explained patterned development along ‘technological trajectories’. Sociologists of technology eventually broadened this explanation, arguing that scientists, policy makers, users, and special-interest groups also contribute to patterning of technological development (e.g.Bijker 1995). It is therefore of great importance to not only explore technological possibilities or sociology related to sustainability, but to define the different relations between the two.


The current socio-technical system of Texel is already quite concerned with sustainability. On Texel, the negative effects related to tourism led to the first thoughts towards sustainability. In 1996, a working party (now known as foundation: Duurzaam Texel) was set up by the municipality with the goal to reduce the environmental impact of the large-scale tourism present on Texel.


In 2010, the European Union established goals related to sustainability. Where the EU have tasked their countries to, among others, acquire 20% of their energy from sustainable sources, the municipality of Texel have set the goal to be completely self-sufficient in sustainable energy and water facilities by 2020.



Prevailing technologies

As seen in the goal set by the municipality, Texel aims to become completely self sufficient in sustainable energy and water facilities. The focus of Texel, and therefore its prevailing technologies, are sustainable technologies related to generating their entire energy and water demand in a sustainable way. Energy-wise, this means that not only  technological systems such as solar panels and tidal energy are prevailing to ensure that the demand is met, but also technological systems related to reducing demand are prevailing on Texel.  The sustainability criteria of the current socio-technical system are the following:


Energy: Generating the demand of energy of Texel with sustainable technologies on the island itself.

The first step towards generating the demand of energy in a sustainable way is to examine the current demand of energy on the island. Energy losses can be severely reduced with both technological and sociological changes. After reducing the demand of energy, the focus can gradually shift towards the generation of sustainable energy. In the current system, the municipality of Texel has followed this approach by stimulating many initiatives related to energy-saving and by stimulating the generation of sustainable energy. The focus of their ambition is all energy related matters, which occur directly on Texel, and not the energy use in the production of materials shipped from elsewhere.

    Current projects mostly focus on energy saving within the current building stock. This is done by giving subsidies for energy saving solutions and by informing citizens about energy saving. The inhabitants of Texel are informed about possibilities and the benefits from which they could profit.Additionally, the municipality of Texel has made agreements on energy performance with housing corporation Woontij. Furthermore, the municipality is stimulating new technologies related to heating and insulation, whilst also selling plots on which only energy efficient building can be built. (Gemeente Texel, 2008)



Water: Generating the demand of (fresh) water of Texel with sustainable technologies on the island itself.

In the current system, the municipality of Texel is focussing on chains of wastewater and the water system of the island itself. Analyses of the water system aim to help achieving the goal set by the municipality. This takes place through different projects such as:

- Boer en water: In the project Boer en water (Farmer and water), farmers work in tandem with the board of surveyors of dikes and other water related issues (Waterschap) to improve the management of freshwater related to agriculture.

- Risk management of water nuisance per part of reclaimed land due to failure. 

- Optimization of the current wastewater systems

- Informing inhabitants and others who are connected to Texel's water systems.


It is hard to pin down key technologies used within these projects since most of the projects are still focussed on analysis rather than implementing a technology directly. These projects were set up to acquire more knowledge and to find possible sustainable solutions, which would then most likely be accompanied by key technologies that could be implemented in the sustainable development of Texel.

    In the case of wastewater, the results showed that Texel could improve their wastewater system by centralizing water treatment and purification and by stop using older treatment facilities in the villages of Oudeschild and 't Horntje. (Gebiedscommissie Texel, 2013)




Several actors were identified as influence for the current sub-system. This section will give a brief description of them:


Higher governmental bodies

The EU and the Dutch governmental bodies have set their goals related to sustainability in defined percentages of E.G. green energy. These governmental bodies have some influence over the most important actor related to the current subsystem.


Municipality of Texel:

The role of the municipality of Texel is crucial to the current sustainable development of Texel. The municipality stimulates other actors whilst also guiding all initiatives. The municipality is also tasked with guiding the entire sustainable development and the creating of widespread support of this development among politicians and the Texelaars. The municipality is responsible for the realisation of the energy vision that they have, and reports their progress to the municipal council.


Foundation Duurzaam Texel:

Foundation Duurzaam Texel is an extension of the municipality of Texel. The foundation was set up by the municipality with the goal to reduce the environmental impact of the large-scale tourism that is present on Texel in 1996. The foundation is tasked with communication towards different parties and inhabitants. They provide information in different forms and they have an office facilitating subsidy requests for sustainable technologies such as solar panels.


Housing Corporation Woontij:

Housing Corporation Woontij realizes energy saving and energy neutral buildings. Additionally, it actively tries to improve their current building stock with energy saving solutions. The corporation takes part in the national program "Meer met Minder" (More with Less), in which 30% of energy is saved in 2020 in comparison with 2010, but it even has a higher goal in mind. The housing corporation has made agreements on energy performance with the municipality and want an active role in the sustainable development of the building stock of Texel.


Texel Energy:

Texel Energy sells and invests in green energy such as electricity and heating in cooperation with the inhabitants of Texel. Since its foundation in 2007, Texel Energie started buying green energy and selling this to the inhabitants of Texel. Their goal is to eventually have all their projects responsible for the supply of green energy realised on Texel.


The inhabitants

In the current system, the sustainable development is a top-down one, starting at governmental bodies such as the Dutch government and the municipality of Texel. Nonetheless, the inhabitants have a say in the sustainable development through the municipality, but also because many of the inhabitants have firms that are connected or could still be connected to the sustainable development of Texel. Companies such as TESO (The ferry to and from Texel) and Texel Energie are companies founded by Texelaars in the recent past, and are still controlled by the Texelaars themselves. These Texelaars can be seen as the entrepreneurs of Texel.



Technologies embedded in cultural behavior

Among the previously named technologies, the technologies which are most embedded in cultural behaviors are the technologies that are well known to the average inhabitant and provide benefits for the environment as well as for themselves. Good examples are the solar panel or thermal insulation glass. These technologies are well known and very accessible to the general public. Also, these technologies are proven to work and can be financially profitable for their owners. Another similar example is insulation

     Other technologies embedded in cultural behavior is a fresh water irrigation system. Farmers on Texel, or any other island, have to deal with the fact that they are surrounded by salt water. Having a fresh water irrigation system then is crucial to this target group.



Interrelation of the elements

The current socio-technical subsystem is a top down system in which the sustainable development comes from governmental bodies such as the European Union, the Dutch government and the municipality of Texel. Due to this top down system, the values of the people that take part in this system are not directly responsible for the input, but only for the output of the system.

    In this map of the current socio-technical subsystem we can identify the links between financial resources - jobs - and tourism in general. Jobs are often linked to leisure activities (often focused on tourists) and the hotel and catering industry (Café's and restaurants).

   The interrelation between the values, needs and facilities when we look at Energy goals is the following. Energy is currently mostly connected to the inhabitants through their housing (value: shelter), since this is the need through which they have the most direct relation with energy facilities.

   When looking at water, we can see that especially people working in the agricultural sector have a very strong connection to technologies related to water management. Furthermore, we can see how the values of each individual group correspond with the appropriate needs and facilities according to these values.

   Important to note is the emigration of inhabitants of Texel. This exodus is especially happening to inhabitants of Texel within the age groups of 20-40 years. From 1998-2008, 33% of the inhabitants between 20-30 years left the island. This rather large number can be attributed to a number of things:

- Possibilities for Entertainment

- Possibilities for Education

- Job Possibilities.




The need for entertainment is large in a small isolated community such as Texel. If there were not any possibilities for entertainment, the population of Texel could drop significantly, and people would search for entertainment elsewhere. Since possibilities on an isolated island with a small population are a bit limited (except for outdoor activities involving nature), they make up for it with many different events such as:

 - Texel air show

- Music festivals such as Sommeltjespop, SunBeats and Texel Blues (for tourists)

- Different runs such as: The Half Marathon of Texel, "Lammetjeswandeltocht" and the "Zestig van Texel"

- Culinary events such as Texel Culinair and Texel's own Fishing Festival

- Outdoor activities such as Mountainbiking, Hiking, Horse-riding, Skydiving, Kiting, Golf and Fishing.

- Guided tours of the nature on Texel and Mudflat hiking.

- Museums such as:  Museum of Cultural History, Museum of Aviation and War, Juttersmuseum and Wadden and North-Sea Center: Ecomare


In comparison to their population, there is a large variety of things to do on Texel. Undoubtedly, this has to do with the large amount of tourists visiting Texel (especially in the summer). They are mostly focussed on tourists though.



Due to the relative small number of inhabitants in similar communities, schools are small and often don't offer the same variety as they do on the mainland. On Texel one can find primary schools in almost all the small villages. Only inhabitants of De Waal, Den Hoorn, Eierland, Oost and 't Horntje have to go to a primary school in one of the slightly larger villages. 

    Contrary to other Dutch Wadden Sea Islands, Texel's youngsters do not have to leave the island to have access to high school education. Den Burg, Texel's largest village, houses the island's only high school. The school offers all regular levels of Dutch education: VMBO, MAVO, HAVO and VWO.

    Unfortunately, there is no university or higher education which the inhabitants can follow after finishing high school.


Elementary (Primary) schools:

Oosterend           -           De Vliekotter

De Cocksdorp      -           O.B.S. Durperhonk

De Koog             -           De Lubertischool

Den Burg            -           O.B.S. Jac. P. Thijsseschool

                        -           P.C.B 'De Fontein'

                        -           Vrije School Texel

                        -           S.B.O. 'De Kompas'

                        -           Katholieke basisschool 'De Jozefschool'

Oudeschild          -           O.B.S. De Bruinvis


High (Secondary) School(s):

Den Burg           -           O.S.G. De Hogeberg


After this high school, there is a significant number of students who want to continue their studies at universities on the mainland. ("Homepage OSG De Hogeberg,")  These students leave Texel to study in a Dutch city and do not always return to the island to share the knowledge acquired on the mainland.Also, we can identify an annual decrease of the numbers of students enrolled to high school of Texel. Whereas the number of students in 2013 was 954, the predicted amount of  students in 2020 is somewhere between 650-700 students (Schoolleiding OSG De Hogeberg, 2013).


Rules and regulations:

The rules and regulations most applicable to the sustainable transition of Texel are the regulations passed down from the European Union to the Dutch government. In 2010, the European Union established goals related to sustainability. Where the EU have tasked their countries to, among others, acquire 20% of their energy from sustainable sources, the municipality of Texel have set the goal to be completely self-sufficient in sustainable energy and water facilities by 2020. The goal set by Texel is however more a guideline and a goal to strive for, than an actual target. This has to do with the limited feasibility of this goal.

   Except for this target, there are not a lot of rules which are directly related to the health and happiness and with the current sustainable development of Texel. There are rules for conservation of the island, such as rules and regulations for the use of nature-reserves and beaches.

   Furthermore, there are regulations which are valid not only on Texel, but also on the mainland. An example is the regulations around education. All elementary schools have compulsory classes on creative subjects such as art and music and mandatory courses such as physical education and classes on geography and history. Especially courses such as physical education and creative classes such as music class contribute greatly health and happiness. 



Major Unsustainability Mechanisms

When we look at unsustainability mechanisms, we can define two of them related to our subsystem of Health, Happiness and Well Being:


Unwillingness of inhabitants to change

The first unsustainability mechanism is the one related to unwillingness of inhabitants to change. This has to with the conservative nature of the identity of the Texelaar. Technological changes are easy to implement but will not suffice in making, in this case, Texel, a sustainable island. This means that the inhabitants of Texel, and people in general, will have to make changes to their lifestyle and their identity to accomplish making Texel a sustainable island.


Why are they here?

The identity of the Texelaar was formed over many decades, ever since the island became inhabited. During this time, the Texelaars a different culture and identity compared to the regular Dutch people. This small community of approximately  14.000 people focus on self-preservation of the community of Texel and their culture and habits.

    The need for preservation of this identity is not uncommon in small communities. In the case of Texel, this is amplified by the large amounts of tourists compared to inhabitants and the amount of people leaving the island for reasons such as better education or better job prospects. Due to this need to preserve their identity, the community of Texel is relatively closed towards outsiders and their ideas, thus creating a certain unwillingness to change.


How do they work?

In the case of the community of Texel, this unsustainability is kept in place because the Texelaars want to maintain their cultural identity.  As said, the need for preservation amplified by the amount of Texelaars leaving the island for reasons such as educational reasons or better job prospects on the Dutch mainland.

    When we look at education, we see that there are several small primary schools throughout the different villages on Texel. After primary school, students will usually attend the only high school on Texel; De Hogeberg, located in Den Burg. The school has all levels (VMBO, MAVO, HAVO & VWO) of Dutch high-school education and therefore it is the only Dutch island where youngsters do not have to leave the island to enjoy a certain high-school education. (Schoolleiding OSG De Hogeberg, 2014) After this high school there is a significant number of students who want to continue their studies at Universities on the mainland. These students leave Texel to study in a Dutch city and do not always return to the island to share the knowledge acquired on the mainland.("Homepage OSG De Hogeberg,")

   Also, we can identify an annual decrease of the numbers of students enrolled to high school of Texel. Whereas the number of students in 2013 was 954, the predicted amount of  students in 2020 is somewhere between 650-700 students. (Schoolleiding OSG De Hogeberg, 2013)


The fact that the community is growing smaller each year, and that there is a large decrease of inhabitants of ages between 20-40 is one of the reasons that there is this need for self-preservation of the Texel community. As we can see in the graph below, there is a large decrease of people in this age-category (a whopping 33% decrease in the amount of inhabitants in the age group 20-30 over 10 years), whilst there is also a large increase of inhabitants in the age group of 60-70. (Gemeente Texel, 2007)


(Gemeente Texel, 2007)


When looking at sustainable development, this means that the Texelaars cannot be dependant of knowledge from Texel themselves but that they are partly dependant on knowledge from the Dutch mainland.


What is/keeping this in place?

There are multiple things keeping this mechanism in place. The fact that the community is growing smaller each year, and that there is a large decrease of inhabitants of ages between 20-40 is one of the reasons that there is this need for self-preservation of the Texel community. This can be partly attributed to the lack of higher education (universities) and the lack of jobs for these graduated students. This keeps them from returning to Texel after enjoying a higher education on the mainland. On the other hand, Texel proves to be attractive especially to people in the age groups of 50-70, not always being former Texelaars.



Tourism vs Life Quality & Sustainability

The second unsustainability is the fact that the Texelaars rely on tourism for a large part of their income. Tourism is the main source of income in Texel since 75% of the inhabitants rely on it to make a living. The second source of income on the island is agriculture, even though the number of farms have decreased by 48 from 1985 until 2000. (, 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. (, 2014)


Why is this here?

Tourists visit Texel for numerous different reasons. 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.


How does it work?

Since tourism is the main source of income in Texel, It leads to different way of living there and brings impacts in terms of liveability. Although it has been a discussion that the impact of tourism is not the only factor that affects the liveability 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 liveability 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)


What is/keeping this in place?

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. By being so dependent on the income from the peak season of tourism, this unsustainability is kept in place.



Trends and Technology

The entrepreneurs are the main group trying to make moves towards improving the levels of health, happiness and well-being in Texel. In terms of what is happening already, even if not entirely successful yet in terms of scope, it can be seen that Texel society has started to move towards more intrinsic values and it is trying to overcome current practices or behaviors challenging their vision of a sustainable society. Some initiatives can be found as a first attempt to make the needed changes in the Texel society, they may need more coordination between all groups and common agreements on what is needed initially to empower people towards the sustainable happiness. However, this initiatives are valuable learning experiences to base the draft of the proposals for the transition of the sub-system.


Current initiatives related to health, happiness and well-being can be divided in the following categories:

  • Community education: Texels Ondernemers Platform is concerned about guarantying education to children from 6 to 18 years on the island in order to become more raise highly qualified personnel with bounding with the island, and to open educational opportunities to retain them. Furthermore, they consider vital to sustain the educational infrastructure and are willing to support initiatives targeting such goal. Moreover, in the summer of 2013 they launched Operatie Onderwijs Texel, opening opportunities for all to teach on Texel. Finally, they have had meetings with students to share with them information about jobs available in Texel and the development required to access to them.
  • Healthy food: Texel is full of farmers with sustainable processes for production, however not always their products are labelled as sustainable or their organic properties are promoted. Understanding local production gives the feeling of social activity participation to children, which can result in closer relationships between family members and with the island and the environment.  With initiatives such as De zelfpluktuin, 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, this trend can become a touristic attraction for Texel and can be capitalized to promote healthy habits among inhabitants.
  • Nature capitalization: There are several projects that has been executed or are under execution to promote tourism and recreation taking advantage of the natural resources of the island, such like Planet Texel, DNA-kustplaatsen and Mooi Texel. Texel is looking at tourism beyond the needs of increasing capacity and it recognizes the need to safeguard the core values for the future. Thus, the preservation of natural reservations is a priority that have mobilize entrepreneurs to even execute auctions to collect the funds needed to make it happen. The value of nature goes beyond tourism to the life quality of inhabitants and how these spaces can be capitalized to promote sustainability in the island, this fact open questions regarding measures that should be taken into consideration when designing the proposals.
  • Entrepreneur’s empowerment: There are two main entrepreneurs’ networks at Texel: TOP (Texels Ondernemers Platform) and JONT (Jonge Ondernemers Netwerk Texel). Both make use of web platforms to connect its members and share relevant information about projects, news, knowledge and experiences. Moreover, they have some meetings over the year in physical spaces in Texel to strengthen networking and experiences’ sharing. While JONT is more focus on giving support to Texel’s young entrepreneurs, TOP does not have age limit and focuses on the interests of all businesses in Texel and connect individual activities to increase impact and collective benefits. These initiatives are actively giving support to the first movers on making things happen and make use of technology to create networks, these skills can be further develop to promote the sustainable transition.


The current trends and technology are a good basement for the initiatives that are being designed for the system. As the current sub-system already is targeting towards a sustainable transition the question now is strongly focus on the how. How to succeed in promoting sustainable values? We thing that the best way is to make them experience, from the initial or seed proposals, what is meant by sustainable happiness.  Furthermore, it is necessary to establish a sustainability promoter mechanism that can receive and promote the execution of further initiatives to be proposed by islanders.


Finally, when analyzing the interactions of the three selected sub-groups, it was remarked the need to seed in the young generations sustainable behaviors for them to further promote the switch towards more sustainable values in the long term. Consequently, the seed proposals are focused on promoting, especially among young Texelaars, sustainable happiness through connecting them with entrepreneurs that can empower them toward implementing new initiatives, and providing them with spaces to experience sustainable happiness in a fun way related to their interests. Once the young Texelaars start engaging in the transition, it is expected that they can start influencing the average inhabitants’ behaviors.




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Schoolleiding OSG De Hogeberg. (2013). Begroting 2014 OSG De Hogeberg.
Gemeente Texel. (2007). Demografische Ontwikkeling van Texel: Gemeente Texel. 
Baarse, G. and Rijsberman, F. (1986). Ecology and tourism: protecting the coast of the Dutch island of Texel. Project Appraisal, 1(2), pp.75-87
Boissevain, J. and Selwyn, T. (2004). Contesting the foreshore. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press., (2014). Did you know this about Texel? - VVV Texel. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Nov. 2014]
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Tiwanee van der Horst , Pieter van Hall , María José Galeano Galván