Polestar System

The Polestar System is a software tool for integrated sustainability planning and long-range scenario analysis. Rather than a rigid model reflecting a particular approach to simulating socio-ecological systems, it offers a flexible and adaptable accounting framework for constructing a wide range of possible futures.


Comprehensive: covers a wide range of economic, social, and environmental variables and their interactions

Multi-scale: applicable at local, national, regional and global levels

Customizable: user-defined data structures, time horizons, and spatial boundaries; simple scripting language for model building; easy data exchange with spreadsheet and database programs; flexible incorporation of information from exogenous models and sources

Exploratory: facilitates analysis  of scenario sensitivity to alternative assumptions, identification of strategies for meeting sustainability goals, and back-casting from nonconventional future visions


Current Accounts and Scenarios: A PoleStar application begins with the Current Accounts, a snapshot of the current state of affairs. Scenarios are then developed to explore alternative futures. A scenario is a set of future economic, resource and environmental accounts, based on assumptions and models developed for the application. Finally, environmental and resource pressures are computed and evaluated in comparison to user-defined sustainability criteria.

Modules: The Tree in the graphic below, taken from a typical PoleStar screen, shows the modular structure. The Pop, GDP, Income module contains the major economic, demographic and social variables that, in part, drive the scenario. More detailed data and scenario assumptions are introduced in the other modules describing Society (Households, Services, Transport, Industry, Agriculture, Energy Conversion, and Forestry). Environmental Pressures are accounted for in the Resource modules (Energy, Water, Mineral and Land Resources) and in the Pollution modules (Air, Water, Toxics and Solid Waste). User-defined Indicators track developments in each scenario, with the QDI (Quality of Development Indicator) offering a single comprehensive summary across social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

PoleStar Screenshot


The data in modules may be disaggregated by subregion, subsector (e.g., household type, industrial category, transportation mode, crop), and process (e.g., farming practice, household equipment, manufacturing process, travel mode and vehicle type). The number and types of regions, subsectors and processes can be adjusted in order to match the aims of the analysis and data availability. Fundamental links between modules are predefined in PoleStar's basic structure, but these can be altered or expanded to meet the needs of an analysis.