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Could it be that the SEE system is self-sustaining the current global mess? (#systemsthinking)

I think you will spend 104 seconds reading this post

Reading about a draft report created out of contributions by Systems Thinkers on the LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking World“, in a discussion aimed at replying to UN’s General Secretary Ban Ki Moon call for revolutionary thinking regarding the current economic crisis, the following considerations occurred to me:

“Could it be that the current Social, Economical and Ecological interplay (system) is indeed sustaining the current situation (a downward slope to future ecological, economic and hence social havoc?”

I tried to quickly summarized my view in the attached diagram (for those that don’t know how to read such a diagram: boxes are “stock” that accumulate (or decrease) over time. Arrows are “flows” between stocks. A + arrow means that both sides of it move in the same direction (if origin increases, so does the destination of it, and conversely when decreasing). A – arrow means the two ends of the arrow move in opposite directions (if origin increases, destination decreases and vice-versa)).

Systems Dynamics causal loop diagram of SEE sustaining an unsustainable future...

The corresponding explanation would go something as:

  • The Economy being in a downturn, it negatively impacts the Social capital of people (trust, willing to give to others [not in terms of money but more on the line of compassion and relationships]), which makes them less likely to contribute to improvements of the Economy (R1). 
  • A decreasing Economy is negatively impacting Ecology as well (R2 through Ecological capital and Survival Instinct back to Social Capital) which, along with all the fuss about Ecology in the medias (UN call including), stresses out our Survival instinct, thereby negatively impacting our Social capital as well. 
  • The less we have a Social capital, the less likely we are to contribute to Ecology (R4). 
  • The last loop is about our stressed out Survival instinct that negatively impacts our Social capital, reinforcing the downturn in Survival instinct (R3).

Please show me where I’m wrong?!

Of course, should that situation has an ounce of veracity, the question would be: out to get out of it. This is the whole purpose of the aforementioned thread to propose some systemic (revolutionary in itself, probably) answer.

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  • Nicholas, I don’t quite understand the diagram, drawn as if of quantitative relationships. What actual mechanism are you describing? I have reached a similar conclusion, that in a great many ways it seems our problem solving strategies that are responsible for creating the severity of our problems.

    One I mentioned on the Systems Thinking discussion on Problems With Systems Thinking, is how a quite sound 125 year old observation by Stanley Jevons, that efficiency accelerates resource depletion, was been turned on its head by modern society, and made the world consensus policy for preventing resource depletion…!!! Saying:

    > I discuss that in my long delayed “Stimulus for Constraint”, a paper on the popular denial of “Jevons’ principle” that efficiency stimulates growth, and how the world consensus sustainability policy became ever more rapidly growing resource depletion…
    [] It’s been through peer review and accepted at E:CO, but needs to be shortened and to find a publisher actually interested…<

    (comment 2827)

    • Thanks Jessie for your comment. I already replied in STW Forum about (truly!) Lean companies taking the ecological aspects into consideration in the efficiency improvements. unfortunately, there are only few of them that seems to do so…

      I’ll have a look at the paper you mention, though on a first thought, I agree that efficiency stimulates growth which might not be sustainable on a long term…

    • whoops, forgot to mention that I’ve added the comment in the post, so you’ll have to re-read it (I forgot to add it on first writing… sorry)

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