Saturday, 7 October 2017

SEPON development post I

Socio-Economic Pressure on Nature (SEPON) is an index under development to provide a semi-quantitative method to estimate the likelihood an individual in a given location is having a negative or positive impact on Earth resources.

The present draft version of SEPON provides an index value of between -40 and +40. If a geographic area has a value of 0 a person living in that geographic area is 'likely' to have little impact on the long term environmental condition of the area. The higher positive number indicates an increased likelihood that a person living in that geographic area will have a net sustainability. Conversely a strongly negative value means that the impact of a person living in that area cannot be sustained overall by that geographic area (i.e. the 'footprint' of all the people living in that geographical area extends beyond the areas geographical boundaries).

Example output from SEPON for selected local governments.
The index uses various attributes from numerous sources that can be applied to specific geographic
areas. SEPON can be applied to small (e.g. suburban scale) or large areas (e.g. states) where consistent data is available across those areas. The draft index datasets is presently very NSW centric and includes Roads & Maritime Services vehicle data, Australian Bureau of Statistics population and dwelling data, Human Services negative income and long term transfer payment data, Office of Environment and Heritage landuse data and more.

The example provided shows the very minimalist output at this stage. The final line with the bold numbers is the SEPON index value. The example areas are local government areas and I think that they are somewhat intuitive when you consider the base information fed into SEPON. People in the Sydney City Council geographical area appear to generally have a footprint a fair bit greater than the actual geographical area. In other words Sydney City Council requires more natural resources to sustain it than it actually could ever sustain within its geographical area. The main reason for this is the arable land required to sustain the population and the nature of housing the population. Sydney City Council appears to be a net 'consumer' of natural resources.

Compare Sydney City to the Walcha Shire Council area. A lightly populated area in the New England tablelands, Walcha overall appears to be a net 'supplier' of natural resources. However, some factors such as transport generally has a relatively substantial negative natural resource impact and therefore the area doesn't have a very high positive value. Compare this with Byron Shire, which although predominately rural in nature has a very high demand of natural resources.

Surprisingly, and maybe anomalously, Fairfield Council has a near neutral SEPON index value. This seems to be particularly due to the manner in which transport is used, the manner in which the population is housed. I will need to return to the index to undertake some qualitative analysis to determine if this is reasonable or not for this local government area.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.


  1. That’s a bold project Rod, I can see it’s research interest but uncertain about its marketability. Are SEPONs to be introduced alongside Environmental Impact Assessments for a range of Development projects. The SAPON report undertaken by the Universit6 of Queensland for Mining in the Lao PDR seems to dominate anyWebsearch. Scaling down to a Local Government Area co7ld be a challenge due to the effect a scale change migh5 have on input values.. I look forward to achieving a greater understanding of SAPON.

  2. Thanks for your initial thoughts John. The practical applications are yet to be figured out! EIA is a possibility though.

    The idea for SEPON is to make it work for any scale, so local government areas might be too broad. The idea is to apply it to areas as small as ABS statistical areas (even down to level 2 statistical areas - neighbourhood scale).