The Metabolism of Islands (MoI), a twin initiative of the Metabolism of Cities (MoC), is the first open-access data portal on the physical basis of island economies. What and how much material and energy is locally produced, imported, transformed, used and discarded on islands? How can islands leverage resource use and efficiency as a way to adapt to climate change and build resilience? MoI offers researchers, policymakers and local businesses with data to support island economies to move towards resource circularity, and thereby lessen reliance on import of virgin materials and reduce waste.

Why Islands?

Simply described, islands are landmasses surrounded by water and often characterized as closed and bounded systems. Islands and their surrounding oceans cover one-sixth of the Earth's total area, providing a home to over 600 million people. While diverse in climate and cultures, islands have much in common in terms of both opportunities and challenges they face (Ellsmoor, 2019).

Most small island economies suffer from tenuous resource supply and security, reduced waste absorption capacity, and limited means to develop economies of scale. Concerns are raised on their size, remoteness, international debt, out-migration, undiversified exports, and dependency on imports to meet basic needs. Islands are also vulnerable to climate change through sea-level rise and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. On average, almost 30% of SIDS (Small Island Developing States) population live in the zone less than 5 meters above sea level (UN, 2014). Thus, their built infrastructure and associated critical services are under constant threat, as are coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves on which they depend. For SIDS alone, estimated annual economic losses due to climate change are estimated to be USD 100 billion per year and projected to increase to USD 157 billion annually by 2030 (UN-OHRLLS, 2015).

However, islands are uniquely positioned to be leaders in sustainability and climate action. Island communities have a sense of urgency to act sooner than later. They are excellent focal points for sustainability education, research, and practice. Islands offer numerous stories and lessons to learn from. Feedback loops (whether positive or negative) for any intervention are likely experienced more rapidly and more pronounced on a small island. Political leaders are under greater pressure to make sustainability a priority, as evident from several commitments made by island states all over the world. The Metabolism of Islands is a small contribution to help island communities achieve these commitments.