Monday, October 31, 2005

Systems Thinking, Who’s to Blame and Jack Johnson…

I’ve danced around the concept of Systems Thinking before, but it really is a central thread to Strategic Sustainable Development, and a vital aspect to dealing with complex systems (as the name implies) like ecosystems and societies.

(I’ve also been neglecting too much to put some of these things I’m writing about into the context of the 5-level framework – it’s very helpful in framing a holistic, strategic approach – so I’ll try to get in the habit. Anyway, this relates to Level 1 (System) and Level 5 (Tools)).

In general Systems Thinking involves taking a holistic view, setting boundaries for the system you’re analyzing, identifying the components of the system and the interactions between them. It looks at causal relationships and feedbacks between components over time and space.

The discipline, which is inherently trans-disciplinary, works against reductionism and is meant to help us understand and communicate complex problems. In order to do so, the most basic tool is the Causal Loop Diagram. A simple one looks like this:

Clearly, this is a very generalized and simplified model, but that’s the point to some extent, and it starts to give perspective on how various components of a system interact and influence each other. The plus signs indicate a reinforcing action (positive feedback loop – the poorer you are, the more you over-harvest, the more you over-harvest, the scarcer your resources, and the poorer you are), while the minus sign indicates a stabilizing action (negative feedback loop – the scarcer your resources, the less people they can support).

CLD’s a key part of Systems Analysis – one can then move on to Systems Dynamics and start modeling how outside affects impact the system, create mathematical and computer models to try to get a sense of how the system will react to various situations.

This type of Systems Thinking is non-linear, and usually difficult for us to think about when we get more than 3 or 4 components involved, without the help of such models and computers. The non-linear nature of systems brings up an interesting point about blame and guilt. In his book The Fifth Discipline Peter Senge describes it in the following way:

“A linear view always suggests a simple locus of responsibility. When things go wrong, this is seen as blame – “he, she, it did it” – or guilt – “I did it.” At a deeper level, there is no difference between blame or guilt, for both spring from linear perceptions. From linear view, we are always looking for something that must be responsible.”

Systems Thinking allows you to move on from that view, and realize that “feedback” is responsible for changes in the system, and that everyone shares responsibility for problems generated by a system. Through Systems Analysis, the interactions become clearer, and you can start to identify leverage points within the system that can mitigate the undesirable effects and enhance the desired.

I couldn’t help but think of Jack Johnson’s song Cookie Jar when getting into this stuff… An excerpt:

well "it wasn't me" says the boy with the gun
sure I pulled the trigger, but it needed to be done
because life’s been killing me ever since it begun
you can't blame me because I'm too young

well you can't blame me, sure the killer was my son
but I didn't teach him to pull the trigger of a gun
it’s those video games and his TV screen
you can't blame me, it’s those images he sees

you can't blame me says the media man
I wasn't the one who came up with the plan
I just point my camera at what the people wanna see
it’s a two way mirror man, you can't blame me

you can't blame me says the singer of the song
and the maker of the movie which he based his life on
it's only entertainment as anyone can see
it's smoke machines and makeup man
you can't blame me

it was you, it was me, and it was every man
we've all got the blood on our hands
we only receive what we demand
if we want hell then hells what we'll have

The song goes on to suggest that TV is the main problem and we should all just turn it off. That might be a simplistic view – I don’t think the problem’s solved that easily – but he’s probably right to some extent that TV and media is a big leverage point for a variety of problems.

Anyway, if you were to look at school shootings, from this approach, you could start to get a sense of what feedbacks were involved. I think we’d find it has a lot to do with violations of SP IV – systematic undermining of people’s capacity to meet their fundamental needs. Certainly no easy answers there, but hopefully that gives a sense from a different angle how framing these problems in the context of the whole system of individuals within organizations within society within the biosphere (Level 1) and define success with the Sustainability Principles (Level 2) we can approach them strategically, using Backcasting (Level 3) and determine what Actions to take (Level 4) and what Tools can help us (Level 5)…

Happy Halloween to everyone – not really such a big deal over here, apparently, but I’m heading to Copenhagen to check that scene out and finally get out of Karlskrona for the first time since I got here, as we’ve got a couple days off before starting our new courses on Wednesday…. Also, a big shout to Bruschi, back starting and helping the Pats seal a close win yesterday – wish I coulda seen it. Hope everyone’s doing well. Stay going…

“I knew I had to say something to strike him kinda weird, so I shouted – ‘I like Manfred Max-Neef, and his beard'…”

A bit more on Max-Neef. Aside from being a great guy and interesting character, he’s done some incredible work in the broad areas of development, social sustainability and economics.

Two of his major focal points during his lectures here were around the concept of Transdisciplinarity (essentially a way of avoiding reductionism, or ‘over-specialization’ and promoting whole systems thinking, much more on all of this later) and the “Needs Matrix” that he has developed.

The Needs Matrix is based on identifying the 9 fundamental human needs and separating them from the satisfiers of those needs. The needs he identifies are…

… in no particular order and with none more important than the other (it is difficult to see how Subsistence wouldn’t take some sort of priority, seeing as without it none of the others would be possible – but his argument is that if any aren’t met, you aren’t really alive anyway).

In terms of keeping needs distinct from satisfiers, it’s easiest to use some examples – food, shelter, clothing aren’t needs, they are satisfiers of the need Subsistence. He also goes further to distinguish between certain types of satisfiers:

Destroyers: paradoxical satisfiers that are supposed to satisfy one need, but end up destroying one’s ability to meet many other needs – these are almost always meant to meet the need for protection and include things like censorship, authoritarianism, and arms races – which in various ways inhibit people from meeting their needs of freedom, participation, creation, etc.

Pseudo-satisfiers: these generally create a false sense of satisfaction, and can overtime making harder to meet the need they were originally intended to satisfy. They include things like status symbols (identity), stereotypes (understanding), prostitution (affection), and fashion/fads (identity).

Inhibiting satisfiers: usually associated with habits and customs these ones can over-satisfy one need while making it difficult / impossible to meet other needs – an overprotective family is an example, in obsessing on meeting the need for protection, it can inhibit affection, understanding, participation, idleness, identity and freedom. Commercial TV probably falls under this category too, in satisfying idleness, understanding, creation and identity can be inhibited.

Singular satisfiers: these ones satisfy one need and are largely neutral to others and include things like many social programs (i.e. soup kitchens satisfy subsistence), and curative medicine (as opposed to preventative, satisfying subsistence). Max-Neef suggests sports spectacles satisfy idleness, I would argue you could also tack on participation and identity, maybe even affection, understanding and freedom (Go Pats!!).

Synergic satisfiers: satisfy one need, and as a result satisfy many other needs simultaneously. Examples include preventative medicine (protection, understanding, participation, subsistence), cultural TV (idleness, understanding), breast-feeding (subsistence, affection, protection, identity), and growing your own food (subsistence, understanding, participation, creation, identity, freedom).

Max-Neef has also developed a process for communities to go through these needs and identify in what ways their cultural traditions, institutions, etc. inhibit them from meeting their needs, so they can get some perspective and start to deal with how to improve things. This approach is a good fit with the sustainability principles, in that in a way they give a definition for success for social sustainability (building on the 4th Principle). The idea is that these are fundamental needs that don’t change between cultures or over time (except maybe the very long-term). It is just the satisfiers that vary greatly between cultures and generations.

Given the complexity and subjectivity of social systems, this isn’t easy stuff to wrap your head around – but I think it’s helpful in getting a bigger picture view, and starting to make sense of a lot of those vague, difficult to articulate ideas about societal problems. In thinking about all the strange pathologies we see in our society in the US, as well as those all around the globe, it starts to make some sense when viewed through this lens, where needs are more than food, shelter, clothes. Things like school shootings, anorexia, Ritalin for the kids, alcoholism, racism, depression, consumerism, gangs, etc can arguably be traced back to some fundamental needs not being met. Then we can look upstream and see how to ensure that they do get met.

Not to suggest that that’s an easy undertaking, by any means, but at least the ground work can be laid for a strategic approach to solving some of these problems.

Stay going…

Friday, October 21, 2005

Social Sustainability and the Economic Model...

First things first, a warm welcome to Bruschi back in the Pats practice rotation! An impressive feat and welcome piece of news... So, I've been getting a lot of heat for not posting in a while, my apologies, but as expected things continue to get busier. We have group presentations (on various tools or concepts related to Sustainable Development - my group's doing EMS (Environmental Management Systems)) and exams next week, so time to buckle down a bit. But here is my last essay from our module on Social Sustainability. Read it with a caveat: the assignment was structured as a way for us to just think things through and play with some ideas, it certainly isn't meant to be an academic paper in the traditional sense - we were limited to 5 pages on a monstrous topic, so generalizations are broad, thoughts incomplete, many of the statements made have volumes of evidence and reasoning behind them that aren't stated, and some knowledge is assumed to be known by the readers (our profs). We were asked to write on the 4th principle and what more could be said on it. I took the liberty of focusing on the current global economic system and its integral role in Social Sustainability.... enjoy:

Number IV In Your Programs, But Number 1 In Your Hearts…. Social Sustainability!

At present, global society is unsustainable. This fact is evidenced through the effects of this unsustainability, including systemic starvation (1 billion people), global warfare (“on terror”, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Kashmir, Sudan), loss of cultural diversity (Westernization / Americanization), and political and economic tyranny (WTO, IMF, Unilateralism) on the global level. We are witnessing the paradox of globalization – while the world is becoming ‘smaller’ with increased international interaction, communication, and trade, there is an undeniable loss of cultural diversity and a breaking down of the social fabric on the global scale.

A key component to this social disarray is a lack of understanding about what constitutes success in terms of social sustainability. The fourth sustainability principle outlines the conditions for success, and Max-Neef’s nine categories of need provide a useful compliment by defining human needs. However, the current dominant model for success is drastically different. It focuses primarily on the growth of material wealth and the assumption (or faith) that that will result in the fairest and most efficient allocation of resources, hence maximizing social welfare. Implicit is the assumption that meeting the need of subsistence, followed by further growth in material consumption will necessarily eventually lead to the satisfaction of other needs. Convincing enough of the key actors in the global socio-political-economic system that there are other criteria for success is a huge challenge, as it requires a drastic shift in thinking and a breaking away from strong, entrenched models.

During my first semester of college I took Econ 1: The Price System. Early on, Professor Anderson explained about assumptions that must be made so we could analyze economic systems scientifically. The basic assumptions include:

1. People have rational preferences among outcomes that can be identified and associated with a value.

2. Individuals maximize utility and firms maximize profits.

3. People act independently on the basis of full and relevant information.[1]

I was shocked. It didn’t make sense that an entire discipline could be founded on assumptions that were so obviously, intuitively flawed. There was an implication that if you could not make that leap in your mind to accept these assumptions, you weren’t cut out for this high-powered discipline, and because of the speed of the course, most easily internalized them and moved on without looking back.

The neoclassic economic model has brought societies very far, very fast. The feats of humankind in the past 150 years are obvious and many, which works to reinforce faith that the model is successful. However, it has become increasingly clear since the 1970s that the model is outdated. Aside from the limits to growth imposed by the biosphere, the model is failing in its aim to improve social welfare. In order to address the challenge of changing such a massive, complex system, it is necessary to have some strategic guidelines.

Donella Meadows’ identification of ‘leverage points’ in a system provides a helpful starting point. What she deemed the most effective point of intervention – the power to transcend paradigms – relates directly to Max-Neef’s lecture discussion on quantum physics and the existence of alternate realities. While we all have the capacity to at least intuitively understand this on some level, there is great difficulty in abandoning our constructed realities, and letting go into what Meadows’ refers to as ‘Not Knowing’. Furthermore, there is little one can do outside of themselves to create such a transcendence in others. So while it may be the most effective, it is probably not the most realistic, at least at this time.

Her second leverage point is to change the paradigm, or mindset of the system. As discussed, the neoclassic economic model is deeply entrenched, and due to its past success has the ardent faith of most of the key actors in power. With regards to how one could possibly change such an ingrained model, Meadows summarizes Thomas Kuhn:

In a nutshell, you keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you keep speaking louder and with assurance from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.[2]

In the case of our global economic system and its impact on social sustainability, one does not have to look far to find the ‘anomalies and failures.’ Exploitation of labor, unfair Free Trade, and the un-reigned power of multi-national corporations are a few far-reaching failures of the system with devastating effects global society. All over the globe, peoples’ capacity to meet their needs is being systematically undermined.

A more concerted, organized and credible effort – beyond the reactionary, theatrical protesting of WTO meetings – needs to be made, working with those change agents and the vast middle ground of the open-minded to illustrate that the current model is outdated, no longer viable, and a major threat to global social sustainability. Simultaneously, successful aspects of the emerging new model (some combination of the products of the ‘New / Second / Third Industrial Revolution’, such as ‘Ecological Economics’, ‘Sustainable Business’, ‘Natural Capitalism’, etc) must continue to be highlighted and emulated.

Closely related to changing the model, is the 3rd point on addressing the goals of the system. Neoclassical economics are concerned with the allocation of scarce resources and the maximization of utility and profit. To those ends, the goals of the system have become growth and efficiency, or in more concrete terms higher GDP. Some perspective is needed on the absurdity of such goals for their own sake, which is again difficult because these are rather basic values of the ingrained system. Still, the advent of more relevant indicators of progress (ISEW, GPI, GNH) has provided us with the basis for more effective evaluation of the system’s success and highlights the flaws of the model.

Such modifications in the system’s framework relate to the 4th point, concerning a system’s ability to self-organize. What’s needed is a more specific re-articulation of the existing goal of the system – of what we mean by maximizing utility – along with some other key terms. The system must shift from seeking physical growth for its own sake to development, or ‘growth of value’ and from valuing efficiency for its sake to effectiveness or ‘efficiency with purpose’. The chances for success at this leverage point are greater, as it does not require transcending paradigms, abandoning the existing model, or even changing its goals. The familiar components are still there, just approached in more honest and effective ways. Markets (that are fair), growth (of value), efficiency (with purpose), and self-interest (that is enlightened) will remain integral parts of an evolved, sustainable, capitalist economic system. Ideally, the adaptation and evolution of the current system result in a smooth and peaceful transition to the new sustainable economic model.

We are starting to see some very exciting, concrete (though preliminary) changes take place as the system slowly begins to become aware of the “new” realities it faces in terms of the ecological sustainability. A shift from goods-based to services-based business models along with mechanisms for internalizing externalities (i.e. Kyoto) are starting to prompt businesses rethink the existing structure of the model.

This shift will likely be more difficult in terms of social sustainability. Cross-cultural understanding is a challenge, as is quantifying happiness and identifying needs. Since the invention of the “under-developed” nation by Truman in 1949, the imposition of various elements of the dominant American culture – both explicit and implicit (mass media, consumerism, Western democracy, industrial agriculture, etc) – on others has been seen as a noble cause. Regardless of intentions, this approach has proven to be destructive and open to manipulation by multi-nationals aiming to open up new markets and exploit inexpensive labor. The political story of good intentions and the corporate vested interest, make the structural changes needed for social sustainability harder to achieve. It is easier to conceptualize how systematic increases of pollutants and physical degradation of natural systems is unsustainable, than it is to see that selling goods and providing jobs to ‘developing’ economies in an unregulated global economy with an imbalance of power is systematically undermining peoples’ capacity to meet their needs.

One way or another, the system will change. Hopefully, through continued pressure on lower-level leverage points (the rules, information flows, positive and negative feedback loops, time delays, etc.), the structure, goals, and the shared model of the system will change at an appropriate pace. Only then will we be able to realize a socially sustainable future.

[1] Wikipedia. “Neoclassical Economics.” On the World Wide Web at:

[2] Meadows, Donella. 1999. “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System.” The Sustainability Institute. Hartland, VT, USA.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

either / or ... both / and

So, in the seemingly mysterious way that is its nature, quantum physics has been streaming into and popping up in my life here in all sorts of ways over the past couple of weeks. It started with a mention in one article, then a conversation, another article, some emails, a lecture, and now it seems to be everywhere. I finally sit down to write about it after our first lecture with Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. Reading some of his work, hearing him lecture and having a brief chat with him has been a mind opening experience. It’s yet another one of those “ah-ha” moments, when things that seemed so complex become so simple, and right back to mind-bogglingly complex. The transformational change continues (more on this later).

The conceptualizations are difficult for our (Western) minds to grasp, because we have the concepts of rationality so ingrained through generations, and institutionalized throughout our own lives. But they slowly start to make more sense the more one spends time with them, and the more open one’s mind is to the possibility that our current view of our reality is incomplete.

The “crisis” for Newtonian theory and our natural laws came in the first few decades or so of the 1900s, when in a quest to find the building blocks of matter, we found that there was nothing there – just a series of potential states, which we could not observe without affecting them. We (or quantum physicists, I guess) finally had to come to grips with the fact that we could not separate ourselves from nature. There was no possibility of outside objective observation at this level – our observation changed reality. (The transformational change that the scientists making these “discoveries” went through personally was apparently very trying, as I suppose it is for anyone who experiences existential “crisis”, when one is forced to confront the crumbling of one’s constructed reality).

Also at that the quantum level we have whole duality of light issue – is it energy or matter? A continuous wave, or streaming packets of matter? This contradiction defied a basic tenant of classical, Western, linear, Aristotelian, rational logic, which seem elementary at the macro level:

1) axiom of identity: A is A

2) axiom of non contradiction: A is not non-A

3) axiom of the excluded middle: there is no third term T, that is simultaneously A and non-A

The duality of light gives us an example of A being A and non-A – being itself and its opposite, simultaneously. In the quantum world then, we see we are dealing with drastically different laws than in the macro world. It is no less than a different reality – another level of reality that we are a part of but for the most part not conscious of. At this other level of reality, there is T, that is the axiom of the included middle.

One practical example of this concept, that is maybe more specifically relevant (or easier to grasp as relevant) to our studies here was proposed by Max-Neef today. One dominant school of thought when thinking about ‘environmentalism’ is that it is a series of trade-offs between things that are either good for growth* or good for the environment – either A or non-A – a choice between two contradictory forces. But on another level of reality, the two are one and the same and that can be called sustainability. It is not that simple, but starting to conceptualize that can be helpful.

On some level, intuitively, I think we all know what it is, but it is not something that can be communicated with language easily, if at all. It also helps explain why some of these synergetic ‘solutions’ we come across in dealing with sustainability - like some of the amazing results, not thought of and unintended, that spring from Permaculture design, green building / development projects, new business models, etc – seem almost magical to us. They are the result of non-linear systems thinking and therefore tap into, or at least flirt with another reality.

I’m sure any attempt I make to explain concepts surrounding quantum physics come off as amateurish and full of holes, but hopefully it will provide some useful food for thought, regardless. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting many of these ideas... Stay going.

*[by growth, it is important for us to differentiate between physical growth for growth’s sake and growth of value. This requires a shift from our obsession with efficiency (in whatever it is we’re doing) to a focus on the effectiveness of what we’re doing, and how it is helping us to meet human needs worldwide (including many that are not met in lives of the richest people in the richest nations. Much more to follow on all of this.]

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Understanding systems...

First, thanks very much for the comment with the link to the Newsweek Article on William McDonough’s work in China – very interesting and exciting stuff. Particularly intriguing for me is to consider how he’s able to implement a lot of the progressive, innovative aspects in the development, given the top-down authority that the government there commands. Can be used for good or bad, I suppose.

Also – this week I somehow stumbled upon this brief article on GHG emissions:

US Greenhouse Gas Emission Slows Down

October 7, 2005 9:30 a.m. EST

Andrea Moore - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Washington, DC (AHN) - The chief U.S. negotiator on global warming acknowledges Thursday the nation's pace in emitting greenhouse gases has slowed.

Harlan Watson, a State Department special envoy, tells the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, "One can argue whether it's slowing down fast enough, but it is slowing down."

The United States releases about 6.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases into the air each year; a quarter of the world's total emissions, which scientists blame for heating the atmosphere like a greenhouse.

Emissions are growing at the rate of about 1.5 percent a year. That growth rate is expected to drop to about 1.3 percent by 2012 as industries adopt newer and cleaner technology.

I post it only to point out how misleading headlines can be at times. The headline seems pretty upbeat because it suggests at first glance that the US is scaling back it’s GHG emissions, when in fact the opposite is true – we’re increasing our emissions at a solid rate of 1.5% every year. That rate of growth is expected to slow to 1.3% a year by 2012 – but that, of course, is 1.3% of a larger number, because between now and 2012, we’ll continue to emit more and more GHG each year.

Again, I’m not a huge fan of getting into the global change debate (despite the fact that it is probably the biggest, most urgent challenge we face) because it is “in the leaves” – and gets away from the core principle problems about how we meet our needs. But this concept exemplifies the difficulties of whole systems thinking.

An interesting study was conducted about this, using this example of CO2 emissions. Researchers from MIT (John Sterman and Linda Booth Sweeney) explained the dynamics of global warming to MBA students at Harvard, Stanford, and MIT and presented them with two scenarios showing projected CO2 emissions rates (flows) and CO2 levels in the atmosphere (stocks), and asked them to identify what the trends would be given various cut backs in emissions. Almost two-thirds of the students failed to correctly recognize the trend (which would be continued global warming) because they didn’t consider the rate at which CO2 was pulled from the atmosphere (through photosynthesis, and the impact deforestation has on natural systems capacity to do that) or the fact that the CO2 already in the atmosphere would continue to have effects even if human emissions stopped all together.

Anyhow, misunderstanding about the basic functions of these systems can promote in-action, and a lost sense of urgency about what our current reality really looks like – so it’s important to be clear.

Stay going…

Upstream vs. Downstream

When one steps back, and looks at problems from a whole systems perspective, it quickly becomes clear that there are upstream and downstream solutions. Upstream solutions are often, if not always, more effective (and therefore more efficient). They tend to get to the heart of the problem. And in doing so, they often bring to light many more problems, that are often systemic, complex and challenging – but it’s a rather exhilarating process to look at what’s at the core of various problems, and it opens up opportunity to create new ways of doing things, instead of constantly being stuck in a reactive, problem solving mode. Come to think of it, this process of looking upstream is central to establishing and understanding the 4 Sustainability Principles – all of the various ways that our society is unsustainable can be traced back (upstream) to those four basic activities (violating the 4 principles).

The “stream” metaphor suggests that as one moves upstream, you get to larger streams, rivers and eventually the source. It becomes clear when you think about big river systems that there’s no one “source” but a complex watershed adding to the flow - just as there is no one solution, no “silver bullet” for sustainability. It’s tempting to hope for one – like a hydrogen economy, or solar power, or even a single conceptualization like Natural Capitalism, or an understanding that there are 4 Sustainability Principles – but it will need to be a combination of all sorts of solutions, brought on by different ways of thinking, learning and conceptualizing our roles in this system (the biosphere) that will bring us to a sustainable future.

For these purposes it may be more useful to think of moving “upstream” from the details of the leaves to the twigs, to the branches, to the trunk. So if we were looking at GHG and toxic emissions from the tailpipe of a car, using a downstream approach we would talk about filters on the tailpipe, recapturing and sequestering the emissions, squeezing more efficiency out of engines and passing legislation that mandates the regulation of future emission rates.

But if we were to use an upstream approach, we would explore ways to develop new types of cars that run on fuels that didn’t emit harmful substances. Or we would look at why were driving the car – let’s say to go to the grocery store – and start talking about ways we could design communities so we live close enough to the grocery store that we wouldn’t need to drive in the first place. An immediate and logical response would be something along the lines of “such undertakings are too large and complex and require the coordinated effort of too many players, often with different motivations and objectives.” And that’s true in most cases. But they’re certainly not impossible, and small bits of them are starting to happen all over the place. “Smartgrowth” initiatives in North America work to address such problems, utilizing mixed-used developments with residential, retail, commercial, industrial and recreational building all integrated. (Having “industrial” in that list might seem unwise at first glance – but when you consider a new kind of industry, that is smarter, more efficient and doesn’t require the input or removal of toxic substances and emissions, you can have an industrial facility next to a playground).

Another, simpler example of an upstream approach is the concept of preventative health care – or the idea that if the goal of the healthcare system is to have healthy people, it makes more sense to focus on keeping people well (through exercise and nutrition programs, etc) than to try to cure illnesses.

In more general terms, in relation to the first 3 (ecological) sustainability principles, the upstream vs. downstream considerations are:

· SP I (substances from the Earth’s crust)

o Downstream – the quality of the final deposit (waste) and the societal competence for dealing with it. (Is the waste product mixed with other substances? Can we contain it and keep it separate from natural systems? i.e. Ways in which we can we keep mercury or CO2 in a closed loop after use)

o Upstream – the type and rate of extraction. (how can we mine less mercury or CO2 through substitution (using other substances that are more abundant and less harmful in natural systems to meet our needs) and dematerialization (increasing efficiency and decreasing demand for such substances)

· SP II (substances produced by society)

o Downstream – keep substances in tightly controlled closed loops, and out of natural systems. (Some times impossible, as with CFC’s, or nuclear waste).

o Upstream – only produce substances that can degrade in nature. (Develop more and use existing non-toxic, non-persistent chemicals and compounds).

· SP III (degradation of ecosystems by physical means)

o Downstream – restoring natural systems (re-planting trees, shutting down fisheries for long periods of time to allow for regeneration).

o Upstream – don’t allow the rate of use / physical impact on ecosystems affect the rate of replenishment in the long term (sustainable harvest of timber or fish).

So there you have it – upstream vs. downstream – a big part of whole systems thinking and a hopefully will spark some new ways at looking at things.

A tough end of the Sox season last night, getting swept by the White Sox, but it was a hell of a season – never got old watching the Manny / Papi combo come to the plate, and a treat to have Ortiz dubbed the “greatest clutch hitter in the history of the Red Sox” by John Henry. Anyway – good thing we have the Pats…. Hope you’re all well – Stay going…

Saturday, October 01, 2005

March on...

I was just emailed this website that's running a "virtual march on Washington" to show how many people are aware of the real threats of global change. They've got some sort of physical group traveling around the country and making pit stops to raise awareness, and they've got some pretty cool partners. It's very easy, and hopefully will be very effective. Please take a second to sign up:

Virtual March to Stop Global Warming

Big win for the Sox last night to tie it up. HUGE game tonight with Wake facing the Unit. I'll be airing the game live via internet, projected on the big screen to my program and some local Swedes, all ready for a strong show of solidarity for RSN.

Hope you are all well. Stay going...