TEACHING SYSTEMS THINKING, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SUSTAINABILITY, AND CLIMATE CHANGE
— curator —
Daniel Fernandez is Professor of Science and Environmental Policy at CSU Monterey Bay.
hether we realize it or not and whether we consciously integrate it into our discipline or not, Systems Thinking is fundamental to our understandings and practices in any field.
In that same vein, it is also fundamental to our approaches to integrate ideas of how our actions impact the world around us at multiple scales, from the very small to the enormous, as well as how we choose to communicate that to others who may or may not share our common-core belief system.
In many ways, I found that learning basic, conceptual ideas of Systems Thinking was a relief.
It provides an intellectual safety valve and a deeper explanation for me of ‘what gets in the way’ when I am stuck at some level of lack of personal growth or have some inability to express some idea.
For me it provides not only a means to understand the basic mechanism of how some physical or social system works, but a means to understand the means of how we understand these mechanisms.
In this sense, Systems Thinking is indispensable within proper education.
As a teacher/professor, am I able to dig down deeply to the explanation of a concept and non-judgementally appreciate why that concept is or is not resonating for a given individual or, more so, for a group of individuals who may or may not share common ideologies and who probably do not share personal histories?
More so, am I able to address that gap by adjusting what I describe and how I do it?
Systems Thinking promotes a meta view to allow a larger incorporation of how the ‘whole’ both affects and is affected by the parts.
Even without an understanding of the basic tenets of Systems Thinking and modeling, consideration of the meta view in any situation is usually advantageous and will generally lead to outcomes more aligned with at least some set of preferred criteria.
In terms of addressing issues of sustainability and global warming, this is key.
To me and to many others with whom I share a common core belief system, it makes perfect sense that the earth is warming as a result of human activities, namely the gases that we release into the atmosphere, and that this (rather sudden) warming is manifested by significant changes in short-term weather patterns.
Yet, to others who do not share this belief system, this notion may seem abstract, academic, irrelevant, extremely inconvenient, or, perhaps, contrary to business interests.
There are also people on the spectrum who likely share the belief but do not want to acknowledge it given the enormity of its implications and the innate, perhaps unconscious, fear associated with that.
A systems-thinking approach underscores not only an understanding of the phenomenon, but an understanding of the wide array of responses to the phenomenon, underlying concepts in psychology and human behavior.
By applying Systems Thinking to our mental framework, we not only gain an enhanced appreciation and grasp of the physical issues at hand, but a broader cognizance of the deeper, and perhaps more subtle, social and psychological impacts of these issues.
Systems Thinking affords us at least the potential for compassion and understanding of the differences in thought and action that will, do, and have existed across multiple individuals and multiple communities and, when integrated more fully into our behaviors, may provide additional tools for universal growth and acceptance of diversity of thought.
Earth Talk: Fritjof Capra – The Systems View of Life (2014)
Dartington TV, Published on May 11, 2014
A talk given at Schumacher College (UK), Dartington on May 7th 2014. The great challenge of our time is to build and nurture sustainable communities, designed in such a manner that their ways of life, physical structures, and technologies do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. To do so, requires a new ecological understanding of life, as well as a new kind of “systemic” thinking. In this lecture, Fritjof Capra describes that such a new understanding of life in terms of complexity, networks, and patterns of organization, has recently emerged at the forefront of science. He will emphasize, in particular, the new conception of the nature of mind and consciousness, which is one of the most radical philosophical implications of the systemic understanding of life; and the urgency of this new understanding for dealing with our global ecological crisis and protecting the continuation and flourishing of life on Earth. Fritjof Capra was speaking as part of his short course running at Schumacher College.
Fritjoff Capra: Part 1 – Systems Thinking and Sustainability
This video provides an overview of why systems thinking is important and what it means to apply it. It describes why our traditional way of thinking may thwart achieving our intended results or unintentionally create worse issues than the ones we’re trying to address. Viewers will learn how to better determine if (and how) an issue can benefit from systems thinking, and the steps required to have a positive effect.