Note: Items in this page are updated as information is received and as time permits. If the reader knows about new pubs/tools that should be announced in this page, please write to the Editor.
1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action
SUGGESTION FOR PRAYER
Psalm of the Cosmos
Loving God, loving God, all creation calls you blessed,
and so do we, and so do we.
Your spirit imprints the whole universe with life and mystery.
Yes, all creation proclaims your love. We now join this chorus of praise.
Loving God, loving God, all of nature calls you blessed,
and so do we, and so do we.
For you have woven an intimate tapestry
and call it life, and called it good. In love you have formed a universe
so diverse yet so related, and into its web you call us forth
to walk the land and swim the sea with all our brothers and sisters.
To the stars, we seem no more than blades of grass.
Yet to you, each of us, as each blade of grass and each star,
is an irreplaceable treasure,
an essential companion on this journey of love.
Loving God, as you lure the whole world into salvation,
guide us with your Spirit
that we might not be only pilgrims on the earth,
but pilgrims with the earth, journeying home to you.
Open our hearts to understand
the intimate relationship that you have with all creation.
Only with this faith can we hope
for tomorrow's children. Amen. Alleluia!
"The Climate Change Science Compendium is a review of some 400 major scientific contributions to our understanding of Earth Systems and climate that have been released through peer-reviewed literature or from research institutions over the last three years, since the close of research for consideration by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
"The Compendium is not a consensus document or an update of any other process. Instead, it is a presentation of some exciting scientific findings, interpretations, ideas, and conclusions that have emerged among scientists.
"Focusing on work that brings new insights to aspects of Earth System Science at various scales, it discusses findings from the International Polar Year and from new technologies that enhance our abilities to see the Earth’s Systems in new ways. Evidence of unexpected rates of change in Arctic sea ice extent, ocean acidification, and species loss emphasizes the urgency needed to develop management strategies for addressing climate change."
Clean Energy Solutions: Ten Things You Can Do to Help Curb Global Warming
The choices we make and the products we buy test our commitment to maintain a healthy planet. When we burn fossil fuels—such as oil, coal, and natural gas—to run our cars and light our homes, we pump carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. This thickens the heat-trapping blanket that surrounds the planet, causing global warming. Choosing modern technology can reduce our use of fossil fuels and help protect the planet. These ten steps will help curb global warming, save you money, and create a safer environment for the future.
1. Drive Smart!
A well-tuned car with properly inflated tires burns less gasoline—cutting pollution and saving you money at the pump. If you have two cars, drive the one with better gas mileage whenever possible. Better yet, skip the drive and take public transit, walk, or bicycle when you can.
2. Buy Local and Organic
Did you know the average American meal travels more than 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate? Think of all the energy wasted and pollution added to the atmosphere—not to mention all the pesticides and chemicals used to grow most produce! So go to your local organic farmer to get your fruits and veggies.
3. Support clean, renewable energy.
Renewable energy solutions, such as wind and solar power, can reduce our reliance on coal-burning power plants, the largest source of global warming pollution in the United States. Call your local utility and sign up for renewable energy. If they don't offer it, ask them why not?
4. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
Especially those that burn the longest each day. Compact fluorescents produce the same amount of light as normal bulbs, but use about a quarter of the electricity and last ten times as long. Each switch you make helps clean the air today, curb global warming, and save you money on your electricity bill.
5. Saving energy at home is good for the environment and for your wallet.
Start with caulking and weather-stripping on doorways and windows. Then adjust your thermostat and start saving. For each degree you lower your thermostat in the winter, you can cut your energy bills by three percent. Finally, ask your utility company to do a free energy audit of your home to show you how to save even more money.
6. Become a smart water consumer.
Install low-flow showerheads and faucets and you'll use half the water without decreasing performance. Then turn your hot water heater down to 120°F and see hot-water costs go down by as much as 50 percent.
7. Buy energy-efficient electronics and appliances.
Replacing an old refrigerator or an air conditioner with an energy-efficient model will save you money on your electricity bill and cut global warming pollution. Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances or visit their website at www.energystar.gov to find the most energy-efficient products.
8. Plant a Tree, protect a forest.
Protecting forests is a big step on the road to curbing global warming. Trees "breathe in" carbon dioxide, but slash-and-burn farming practices, intensive livestock production, and logging have destroyed 90 percent of the native forests in the United States. And you can take action in your own backyard—planting shade trees around your house will absorb CO2, and slash your summer air-conditioning bills.
9. Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!
Producing new paper, glass, and metal products from recycled materials saves 70 to 90 percent of the energy and pollution, including CO2, that would result if the product came from virgin materials. Recycling a stack of newspapers only four feet high will save a good-sized tree. Please... buy recycled products!
10. Mount a local campaign against global warming.
Educate your community about how it can cut global warming pollution. Support measures at the national, state, and local level that:
Make automobiles go further on a gallon of gas;
Accelerate the use of clean, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind;
Increase energy efficiency and conservation; and
Preserve forests around the world.
Interested in helping your city become a "cool city"? It's easy! Click here for details and you'll be on your way to helping your city be Cool!
"Tracing Connections is for anyone who’s ever wondered how Systems Thinking can be effectively used to significantly and successfully transform education, business, public policy, and research. "In ten chapters, teachers, World Bank Executives, corporate consultants, researchers and college professors lead the reader through an amazing spectrum of applied System Thinking that leads to unexpected realizations and critical understanding.
"Our bodies are archives of sensory knowledge and laboratories in which to retool our senses and practices in response to changing circumstances. If global environmental changes continue at an unsettling pace, how will we make sense of the cascade of new normals, where the air, land, and water around us are no longer familiar?
"The book tackles this question by exploring situations in the recent past when state-driven megaprojects and regulatory and environmental changes forced people to cope with radical transformations in their work and home environments. The construction of dams, chemical plants, nuclear reactors, and military training grounds; new patterns in seasonal rains; and developments in animal husbandry altered the daily lives of ordinary people and essentially disrupted their embodied understandings of the world.
"This study offers a timely and prescient perspective on how humans make sense of the world in the face of rapid environmental, technological, and social change.
Report on the World Social Situation 2010: "Rethinking Poverty"
Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), United Nations, 2010
"Rethinking Poverty, the 2010 issue of the Report on the World Social Situation (RWSS2010) seeks to contribute to rethinking poverty and its eradication. It affirms the urgent need for a strategic shift away from the market fundamentalist thinking, policies and practices of recent decades towards more sustainable development- and equity-oriented policies appropriate to national conditions and circumstances. Responsible development and counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies to foster productive investments and generate decent employment must be at the core of this effort.
"The Report makes a compelling case for rethinking poverty and poverty-reduction efforts, saying that over-reliance on market forces and economic liberalization have led to neglect of nationally designed and developmentally-oriented strategies, to the detriment of the world’s poor. The most important lesson is that governments need to play a developmental role, integrating economic and social policies that support inclusive output and employment growth, while attacking inequality and promoting justice."
"Sustainability, by Stuart W. Rose, describes the massive changes happening in the world, an example of a sustainable housing project, and a vision of what sustainable living will be. An architect and developer of what many consider the most sustainable housing development in the U.S., Rose introduces the exciting, ever-changing world of sustainability, a way of life that includes creating homes and communities with materials that do no harm to, and take nothing away from, the earth's resources. He reveals how sustainable living goes beyond being ecologically and financially friendly, while saving on utility bills, and leads to a different, yet more joyful quality of life. Also fascinating is the author's recounting of architectural developments leading to his innovations, such as Garden Atriums evolving from a design created 2,500 years ago. Rose has created a book that is as much an adventure as it is encouragement for everyone desiring to live a sustainable and more fulfilling life. In this comprehensive book, readers will learn about:
A detailed picture of the global transformation that's happening;
Architectural designs from ancient China adapted for use today;
The role of currencies and governance in sustainable living;
Living sustainably in a way that's more satisfying that today's lifestyle;
Debunking the myths around alleged difficulties of sustainable living."
"The aim of this book is to provide a representation of research
findings in an accessible form for practitioners within the public,
business and the wider community sectors. We hope readers
will delve deeper into the academic papers listed at the end of
each chapter. There is much more available on our website and
we invite readers to contact our lead authors for our most recent
work. General comments can be directed to
"This book does not pretend to cover all aspects of sustainability.
It leaves out many great ideas, experiments and successes. It
does not address biophysical science, for example in climate
change, biodiversity, soils, land and urban ecosystems; that is a
feature of the work of New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes.
Instead our research has focused on supporting New Zealand’s
and international capacity for sustainable development. We
believe that capacity has now, in C.S. Lewis’s words, begun to
hatch. We hope the insights within this book will continue to
help individuals, organisations and communities to transition
from the potential of the egg to the flight of the bird."
"Worldwatch's flagship publication, State of the World, has educated a broad audience of students, journalists, policymakers, and concerned citizens about trends in sustainable development for a quarter century. The book has been published in 36 languages, and over the years it has authoritatively assessed issues ranging from population, energy, and agriculture to materials use, health, and trade policy. Topics are covered from a global perspective, with an emphasis on innovation and problem-solving. State of the World is recognized as a classic of environmental literature, having attracted luminaries from Kofi Annan to Mikhail Gorbachev to write forewords for the book. News media, policymakers, and NGOs worldwide cite the book for its cutting-edge analysis, reliability, and careful documentation of its arguments, all marshaled to speed the global transition to a sustainable world."
For the PelicanWeb's book review of State of the World 2010, click here.
The Three Ds: Democracy, Divinity, and Drama
By Bruce A. Burton, Castleton State College, Vermont Published by Synerg Ebooks, 2010
"When we account for the thousands of years of written and institutional woman-hating right up to Democracy’s current struggle with religious despotisms, it is historically evident that where the genders shared equally, such as in the production of food, as in Neolithic societies in the Near East and America-where women domesticated and cultivated and men watered crops- Democracies flourished and Universal Peace prevailed. THE 3 DS was written, therefore, in response to the historical and to today’s continuing religious violence against women, and as an answer to Aristotle’s Iron Age negative view of women which continues to influence so many of our University and College graduates in religion, literature, drama, and philosophy today – and as a statement of confidence that Democracy based on Gender Balance will prevail against the current challenge of international terrorism in the name of religion and pave the way, for what can only be after these many thousands of years, a more humane future for the human family."
Gaia in Turmoil: Climate Change, Biodepletion, and Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis
Edited by Eileen Crist and H. Bruce Rinker, MIT Press, November 2009
"Gaian theory, which holds that Earth's physical and biological processes are inextricably bound to form a self-regulating system, is more relevant than ever in light of increasing concerns about global climate change. The Gaian paradigm of Earth as a living system, first articulated by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, has inspired a burgeoning body of researchers working across disciplines that range from physics and biology to philosophy and politics. Gaia in Turmoil reflects this disciplinary richness and intellectual diversity, with contributions (including essays by both Lovelock and Margulis) that approach the topic from a wide variety of perspectives, discussing not only Gaian science but also global environmental problems and Gaian ethics and education.
"Contributors focus first on the science of Gaia, considering such topics as the workings of the biosphere, the planet's water supply, and evolution; then discuss Gaian perspectives on global environmental change, including biodiversity destruction and global warming; and finally explore the influence of Gaia on environmental policy, ethics, politics, technology, economics, and education. Gaia in Turmoil breaks new ground by focusing on global ecological problems from the perspectives of Gaian science and knowledge, focusing especially on the challenges of climate change and biodiversity destruction."
What is open-sustainability? "Open-sustainability is an approach that applies information-centric techniques to solve challenges related to sustainable development. It leverages an integrated solution approach, combining the Framework for Integrated Sustainable Development (FISDev) tool with a five phase sustainability governance framework, both of which are open-source tools freely accessible and collaboratively developed. They work in concert to enable commercial business models for sustainability and Social media business models around online advertising and e-learning. A corporate organization for open-sustainability.com exists to provide these service, but works in coordination with other organizations providing the same services."
Amina Waduna, Islamic Feminist Scholar. The following biographical note is excerpted from Wikipedia:
"Amina Wadud was born September 25, 1952 in Bethesda, Maryland and is an Islamic feminist and scholar with a progressive, feminist focus on Qur'an exegesis.... Her father was a Methodist minister and her mother descended from Muslim slaves of Arab, Berber and African ancestry dating back to the 8th Century.... In 1972 she pronounced the shahadah and accepted Islam, not knowing of her maternal ancestry and by 1974 her name was officially changed to Amina Wadud to reflect her chosen religious affiliation. After receiving her B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania, she went to graduate school at the University of Michigan and received her M.A. in Near Eastern Studies and her Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies (1988). She was a Professor of Islamic Studies at the International Islamic University Malaysia (1989-1992) and Virginia Commonwealth University (1992-2008). She is now a visiting professor at the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Wadud was the subject of controversy, debate and Muslim juristic discourse after leading a Friday prayer (salat) of over 100 male and female Muslims sponsored by the Progressive Muslim Union and held in the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York on March 18, 2005, breaking with the tradition of having only male imams (prayer leaders)."
"Dr. Haghighatjoo is a leading proponent of human rights and women’s rights in Iran. Dr. Haghighatjoo served in the Iranian Parliament from 2000-2004 and was the first to resign when the anti-reform Guardian Council banned more than 2000 reformist candidates from the 7th Parliamentary election. She was president of the Student Movement Caucus and a deputy of the Mosharekat Caucus in the 6th Parliament as well as a member of the political bureau of the Mosharekat party in Iran. More recently, Dr. Haghighatjoo has held several academic posts in the United States: Assistant Professor In-Resident at the University of Connecticut, Fellow in the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and Visiting Scholar at the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Haghighatjoo earned her Ph.D. in Counseling from Tarbiat Moalem University, served as a Professor at the National University of Iran, and authored Search for Truth (2002). She has served as Vice President of the Psychology and Counseling Organization in Iran. She was honored as a Young Global Leader Nominee 2005 by the World Economic Forum."
If you could raise one question, what would it be?
The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development is the flagship publication of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women. The theme for the World Survey in 2009 is "Women’s control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance."
Human Development Report 2010
"Rethinking Human Development"
From the UNDP HDR 2010 web page:
"Human development is about putting people at the centre of development. It is about people realizing their potential, increasing their choices and enjoying the freedom to lead lives they value. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity, climate change, and mobility.
"The 2010 report will seek to articulate an agenda for change to underpin a New Human Development Deal that can significantly advance development thinking and policies. It will incorporate thinking from academia and the policy world as well as new research to be commissioned or undertaken by the Human Development Report Office. It will place significant emphasis on the knowledge that comes from developing countries and regions, in particular that garnered through the national and regional human development reports. This emphasis reflects the belief that placing people at the center of development also implies putting people at the center of the generation of knowledge about development, and that this is best achieved by understanding how communities and local actors understand the practice of development."
It is time for the human propensity to avoid responsibility, and the common practice of finger pointing, to give way to collaborative efforts driven by human solidarity and a willingness to assume responsibility for individual and institutional actions. This is an area in which ICT can be helpful if properly used. A good example is the analysis of large interdependency matrices. This kind of analysis is useful in understanding both sequential and closed-loop interactions in complex systems. Let us consider the system of all the ESD activities and all the MDG activities, a total of 16 activities as follows:
ESD1-Education on Gender Equality
ESD2-Education on Human Health
ESD3-Education on Environmental Management
ESD4-Education on Rural Development
ESD5-Education on Cultural Diversity
ESD6-Education on Human Security
ESD7-Education on Sustainable Urbanization
ESD8-Education on Sustainable Consumption
MDG1-Eradication of Poverty and Hunger
MDG2-Universal Education for all Children
MDG3-Promotion of Gender Equality
MDG4-Reduction of Infant Mortality
MDG5-Improvement of Maternal Health
MDG6-Mitigation of the HIV Epidemic
MDG7-Assurance of Environmental Sustainability
MDG8-Global Partnership for Development
The PSM32 matrix analysis software, developed by Donald Steward and associates at Problematics, provides a convenient way to enter data on interdependencies between activities of any kind. When the tool is launched, the analyst must first list the activities in any order. Then the software builds a blank NxN square matrix that enables the analyst to enter data on interdependencies between activities. Basically, in the blank matrix shown below, a mark is entered in cells such that a mark in cell (row i, column j) represents a dependency of row activity i on input to be supplied by column activity j.
16x16 blank matrix built by PSM32 showing the ESDs and MDGs and rows and columns.
Courtesy of Problematics
The marks can be entered directly in the matrix. As a preliminary step, it is often a good practice to prepare a block and arrow diagram showing the input and output information flows that connect all the activities. Then, after all the stakeholders have validated the web of interdependencies, each arrow going into an acitivity can be captured in the matrix by entering a mark in cell (row i, column j) where the column j activity is the supplier of information to the row i activity. In other words, the marks are entered at the points where an arrow from activity j delivers information to activity i. The following figure shows 4 steps of analysis that are possible after the diagram of dependencies is converted to matrix format:
Steps 1 to 4 in the analysis of ESD activities and all the
MDG activities interdependencies using
Step (1) is building a diagram of dependencies between the 16 activities. Step (2) is the translation to a 16X16 matrix format. Each column entry shows what row activities are fed by the column activities. Numbers and/or colors can be used to indicate how sensitive the row activities are to inputs from the column activities. Plus and minus signs can be used to depict positive (reinforcing) or negative (stabilizing) feedback loops. For instance, the plus signs in the MDG8 column indicate that progress in MDG8 has a reinforcing effect on all the ESDs. Step (3) shows the rows and columns reordered so that the matrix becomes block-triangular, i.e., all activities are shown in square blocks around the diagonal. Activities within blocks are usually tightly coupled together and may have to be iterated several times before proceeding to the next block. Step (4) is a sanity check on all the dependencies and feedbacks.
This block-triangular matrix was derived (using Don Steward's PSM32 software tool) by setting up a 16x16 square matrix -- with the rows and columns being the eight ESDs and the eight MDGs -- and entering marks in those cells for which the column item provides input to the row item. Then the matrix is partitioned via row and column operations so as to identify the blocks of that should be worked out together. The arrows are added to show that there is a feedback loop between ESDs and MDGs as the sustainable development process unfolds.
Once the basic structure of activity interdependencies is understood, additional critical factors can be inserted for further analysis. The next figure shows the insertion of integral human development (IHD) as the the result of activities in the preceding blocks; and IHD is the ingredient that actually fuels the reinforcing feedback from the MDGs back to the ESDs.
Matrix expanded to show IHD as the critical axis of the ESD-MDG system
This 17x17 matrix is a concise representation of all the interdependencies between the ESDs, between the MDGs, and between the ESDs and MDGs. The yellow block includes all the ESD themes, which should be integrated together such that every theme includes dependencies on all the other themes; otherwise, the order in which they are listed is not essential. The next block around the diagonal (red) includes MDGs 1, 8, 2, 7, and 3; and includes nested blocks for MDGs 1, 8, 2, and 7 (blue) and MDGs 1 and 8 (green). The lowest block down the diagonal (orange) includes MDGs 4, 5, and 6, which improve in response to 1-8-2-7-3 block and in turn have a reinforcing effect on the same block.
This is an illustration of the kind of integration needed in education and planning for sustainable development. Managing the sustainable development process requires interdisciplinary knowledge integration. It requires integration of projects at the local, national, and global levels. For instance, at the global level, issues of population growth, ecological economics, and climate change need to be integrated so as to avoid costly failures and delays. Computers, and software such as PSM32, make this kind of integration possible. There is much to be gained in terms of the common good of humanity and the conservation of the human habitat. Indeed, integration requires some collaborative effort, but it is much better than pointing fingers and looking for scapegoats to avoid responsibility as global citizens.
Interdependency matrices are useful in many phases of sustainable development, and more generally in the structuring and management of complex programs. Interdependency matrices are used under various name, but the technique is generally the same:
 For N interdependent factors, or processes, build and NxN matrix such that each cell (i,j) identifies inputs that factor i must receive from factor j.
 Using any appropriate algorithm for row and column operations, convert the NxN matrix into a block-triangural NxN matrix.
 Iterate on each square block around the diagonal to define the optimal coordination for the tightly coupled factors in the block.
 Revisit the optimized matrix frequently, so that it does not become a static crutch while the dynamics of the process are changing the factors and interdependencies.
For more information about using interdependency matrices, see the following papers/tutorials:
The Millennium Village Simulation (MV Sim), developed by the Columbia University's Center for New Media Teaching & Learning (CCNMTL) and the Columbia Earth Institute, is very appealing because it supports learning about pursuing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) under conditions of extreme poverty in Africa.
According to the MV Sim web site, "the MV Sim (short for Millennium Village Simulation) was created as a teaching tool to help students appreciate the complexity of meeting the MDGs in a rural African setting, and to experience the interdisciplinary nature of sustainable development. The MV Sim does not strive to be a perfect replica of a real village; indeed, many of Africa's challenges (such as HIV/AIDS) are not present in the simulation. Instead, the MV Sim purposefully incorporates only a select set of issues to make it a manageable educational tool that models challenges cutting across the disciplines of agronomy, public health, environmental science, and economics."
The tool is freely accessible on the web, and an excellent tutorial is available and embedded below. Just click on the arrow to get started. While taking the tutorial, clicking on the four outgoing arrows (next to last in the bottom tool bar) switches to full screen mode.
Click here to register and give it a try. The simulation entails making periodic decisions about work and consumption of basic necessities by a poor familiy. After the family succeeds in sustainable living, the simulation allows for participation in sustainability decisions for the entire village. During a given simulation run, the user is given periodic reports on sustainability status for the family and village based on previous decisions, including graphs of the decisions made over time. Help text is available at each step. In addition, links are provided to access maps and other online sources of sustainable development information.
In the Maps and Graphics Library, there is (as of 5 March 2010) an amazing collection of 1841 graphics, a collection of interactive maps, and a collection of graphs from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. These are global collections, but there are options to search by region, country, and themes (Freshwater Systems, Climate Change, Waste, Pollution,
Biodiversity & Conservation, Environment & Poverty, Environment & Security, and Urban issues). All these maps and graphics can be downloaded and used for free albeit subject to the disclaimer, copyright and usage conditions. Links are provided to other collections of maps and graphics such as DatabasiN, Globalis, the Arctic Environmental Atlas, the Marine Geophisical Data Maps (UNEP), the Baltic Environmental Atlas, and the University of the Arctic Atlas.
The Climate Change Performance Index developed by Germanwatch is calculated using three weighted indexes:  Emissions trends for energy, transport, industry and residential account for 50 % of total rating;  A country’s current emissions level (CO2 emitted per primary energy unit, primary energy unit per GDP, primary energy unit per capita) is given a 30 % weight in the overall evaluation;  Climate policy (national and international) weighs 20%.
All data is for 2000. All calculations are based on CO2 equivalents, using 100-year global warming potentials from the IPCC (1996), based on a total global estimate of 41,755 Million Tons CO2 equivalent. Land use change includes both emissions and absorptions. Dotted lines represent flows of less than 0.1% of total GHG emissions. Note: The contribution of the livestock sector is shown as 5.1%, but check this out.
This "first wave" of System Dynamics was a significant breakthrough that led to many new insights, such as the counterintuitive behavior of social systems, an enhanced awareness about the global limits to growth, and many other applications in practically all disciplines. However, as it is often the case with "first waves," the enthusiasm created by the new modeling and simulation method also led to naive claims about System Dynamics having a "prescriptive capability" to improve real-world system behavior by changing information flows and feedback loops in accordance with the results of simulation experiments. These presumptious claims were wisely challenged by many in both academic institutions and other private/public policy-making groups. For some additional material on "first wave" System Dynamics applied to sustainable development, click here.
A "second wave" of System Dynamics has been incubating since the 1980s in which the method is proposed more for collaborative learning and communication and less for policy-making prescriptions. This "second wave" was triggered by "first wavers" such as Donella Meadows' (see her self-critique of the Limits to Growth project and her insistence on balancing systems thinking with global citizenship), Barry Richmond (who wrote a novel guide to systems thinking and developed the user-friendly
STELLA software), and Peter Senge (author of The Fifth Discipline and other books about organizational learning). The following are suggested as basic references about the "second wave" of System Dynamics:
According to Barry Richmond, there are eight critical skills in systems thinking:
high altitude thinking, to gain a view of the interdisciplinary "big picture" rather than intradisciplinary minutiae
system-as-cause thinking, to include only the factors that interact to generate the behavior of interest
dynamic thinking, to visualize behavior patterns over time, i.e., behavior modes rather than specific events
operational thinking, to capture how the system parts interact to generate the behavior patterns of interest
closed-loop thinking, to identify the web of feedback loops that link together all the interacting parts
scientific thinking, to use math models/simulation experiments as hypotheses linking behavior to feedback webs
emphatic thinking, to communicate working hypotheses effectively for individual/organizational learning
generic thinking, to understand how certain feedback structures generate the same behavior across disciplines
These critical skills apply to "systems thinking" in general, and in particular to System Dynamics. Let us consider the global human civilization-human habitat system in a "limits to growth" context. Keeping in mind that any system analysis is but a simplified abstraction from the real-world system, application of the eight skills, and in particular the "closed-loop thinking" and "scientific thinking" skills, lead to something like the following:
Closed-loop diagram and simulation experiment for the human civilization-human habitat system
Colors: blue=population, red=resources, pink=financial capital, green=pollution, yellow=human capital
The "high altitude thinking" and "system-as-cause" skills lead to the causal-look diagram on the left. The causal-loop diagram is a hypothesis based on "dynamic thinking" about system behavior (see examples in Section 6 of this page) and "operational thinking" about how the subsystems interact. The simulation plot on the right is the behavioral counterpart of the causal-loop diagram. Both together constitute a working hypothesis about why the real-world system behaves as it does. It is noted that the simulation plot does not show a dark-yellow pattern for human capital (or integral human development, IHD). This indicates that the hypothesis does not yet include the operational effect of intanglible, but highly influential, cultural factors.
Then, "emphatic thinking" is required to communicate this hypothesis to all the stakeholders and see how it bounces, in order to learn and explore options for improved system management. In this scenario, the learning and exploring probably should include further elucidation of how the blue, red, pink, and green sectors interact with culture and human development. It is good System Dynamics practice to make visible both what is included and what is not included in the hypothesis. The "generic thinking" process is not shown, as it comes into play when formulating the stock and flow equations required to generate the simulation. To provide further visibility, it would be shown in diagrams at a lower level of decomposition. The entire System Dynamics method is then one of collaborative learning and communication. It may support decision-making and policy-making as confidence increases on the validity of the working hypothesis; but this is beyond the System Dynamics method per se.
For applications of System Dynamics to the sustainable development process, see chapters 8 and 10 of Tracing Connections. For additional references, including Learning Environment: Limits to Growth - The 30-Year Update, click here.
The next challenge for System Dynamics is to take into account the intangible (cultural) factors that really matter for resisting/fostering the transition from consumerism to sustainability. The STELLA "graph functions" provide the required software functionality, but these ceteris paribus nonlinearities are yet to be identified and quantified. This is the splendid challenge awaiting the "third wavers."
EXAMPLE OF STELLA/NETSIM WEB-BASED SIMULATION
System Dynamics models formulated in the in STELLA simulation language can be migrated to the web by using the NETSIM software package. Then the model becomes available for web-based simulation sharing. See, for example, the web-based C-LEARN Climate Simulation for runnning scenarios about the generation of CO2 emissions.
Courtesy of Forio Simulations Note: Scroll vertically to select simulation options, horizontally to see other results.
Web-based games and simulations can play an important role in education for sustainable development. However, the educational benefit of running the models is contingent on a solid understanding of how the models work as an abstraction of reality; else, the benefit degrades from education to entertainment.