The Hawaiian Islands: Conceptualizing an Industrial Ecology Holarchic System

The Hawaiian Islands form a holarchic system with at least five nested layers (holons) at increasing spatial scales: from a single enterprise to cities, to individual islands, to the archipelago (the group of islands), and to the global resource base that connects them all. Each holonic layer operates individually but is also linked to holons at lower and higher levels by material input and output flows. An integrated study of the holarchic system allows us to explore the value of applying this concept to industrial ecology. We present examples from a multi-level material flow analysis combining a large quantity of material and energy flow data for Hawaii from the five holarchic levels. Our analysis demonstrates how a holarchic approach to the study of selected interacting systems can reveal features and linkages of their metabolism not otherwise apparent and can provide a novel basis for discovering material, energy, and societal connections.