Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse | Cathy Alexander and Graham Turner | @Guardian #systemsthinking

Simple article, effective in sending the message (like others did dozens of year ago). Now, people listen, but they don’t hear.

I love the graphs with superposition of calculated trajectories and real values.

We’re doomed.

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse | Cathy Alexander and Graham Turner | Comment is free | The Guardian.

#systemsthinking Might humans higher intellect be the cause for the announced doom?

The Club of Rome and “Limits to Growth” book have warned us since when I was born that without a drastic change, humanity is doomed. Indeed, a point of non-return was passed over in the 80s, so we I guess we all have to cross fingers and hope for an innovation to save us all.

Meanwhile, I was thinking out loud on LinkedIn/Systems Thinking World and happened to have posted the following, which I think might be of interest to readers of this blog.

I think there’s a system at play in humans on a second level that is absent in animals (and insects) [the discussion was about Insect Economies]

Animals interact on a ground level with their environment and are structurally coupled with it (Maturana). When there’s food available, they use it. When the resource is exhausted or below a *practical* level corresponding to their natural ability to gather/use it, they just stop, either through migrating to better places, which indeed let time for nature to rebuild itself or they breed less, or even they disappear altogether.

Humans on the contrary are able to adapt themselves to a higher level to their environment. When their usual way of using resources isn’t sufficient enough, they invent/innovate a new/different/better way of doing it, and exploit the resources further (usually through tools). The result is that nature goes beyond a point of being able to regenerate itself (overshoot and collapse? Mentioned here). When we achieve this point, we usually either move elsewhere (find a new oil natural tank) or innovate to use another kind of resource.

Indeed, it’s always a search for more, with (as far as I noted for now) more and more negative longer term consequences.

So, from a systemic perspective, I’d say that what allowed humanity to prosper up to now is its capacity to think at “upper” levels and have a new kind of adaptation to change, where animals are more limited. It might well be what will put humanity at risk in the longer term, unless we evolve one layer further up.

I thus see 3 tendencies for now:

  • continue humankind as usual (the 90%)
  • embrace decrease/frugal economy (ie, consume less and less, the 9%) – in which I place initiatives such as The Commons
  • embrace thinking to a higher level (the 1%?): systems thinking, the human project ( and similar.

Despite being attracted with the third option, I’m wondering whether this direction is the good one given that it showed such poor results to date (incredible progress but with an exhausted planet in the end).


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