Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World


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We also produce essential handbooks on the economics of health care, agriculture, education, and a wide spectrum of other areas of public policy. Cookies are used by this site. To decline or learn more, visit our Cookies page. There are Limits — Economic Growth and Sustainability By: Karen Higgins , Posted on: January 6, Can we maintain our present quality of life while preserving the well-being of our grandchildren?

Are there limits to the growth that fuels our lifestyles? Sign up to our newsletter. Connect with us on social media and stay up to date on new articles. Like Economics and Finance on Facebook.

Finally a framework for the application of Systems Thinking is presented to help improve sustainable land management. As we do, he points out we will be able to make progress in addressing the compelling slate of social issues that challenge our viability. It provides some good descriptions of the issues, and some useful approaches to help us improve our capabilities. Bucking the system — systems concepts and development. In this article, Bob Williams describes three core concepts of systems thinking: i inter-relationships; ii perspectives; and iii boundaries.

Systems thinking and practice This Open University course outlines what is systems thinking and practice? This unit will help you to learn about the problems of defining a system and meet some of the key concepts used in systems theory: boundary, environment, positive and negative feedback, etc. Systems diagramming Pictures speak louder than words.

Because of this diagrams are used extensively in systems thinking and practice. This unit aims to help you learn how to read, draw and present diagrams to help illustrate how ideas or processes are connected. Managing complexity: a systems approach — introduction If you want to generate a fresh perspective of complex issues; if you want to break out of traps and rigid ways of thinking … then this course is a good place to visit. It is designed to help build your capacity to manage complexity and to develop a deep understanding of contemporary systems thinking.


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Skip to content Skip to main menu Menu. Some introductory pieces Introduction to systems thinking. Site information. Recent Posts. This can give us a direction from which we can search for possible solutions. The economy is to serve the people, and not the people to serve the economy. Growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth. The economy is a sub-system of a larger and finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

He suggests that new economic models must accept the limits of the carrying capacity of the Earth, move from efficiency to sufficiency and qualitative wellbeing, and solve the present economic imbalances and inequities. Transition must be towards societies that can adjust to a reduced level of production and consumption, and favouring localised systems of economic organisation. Differences between the popular view and the proposed Ecosocial Approach to Well-being adapted from Salonen and Konkka The journey to the future is about unlearning our current worldview and learning a new sustainable one to replace it.

This learning is truly transformative.

Can Systems Thinking Actually Solve Sustainability Challenges? Part 1, the Diagnosis | Pro Journo

Green growth is the current economic and societal paradigm inside which we are searching for sustainable global solutions for our common future. However, our chances to succeed in solving environmental and social problems while staying on economic growth path seem to be questionable. Mankind is taking a substantial risk of disaster if we do not have any alternative plans for the economic growth model in the form we currently understand it. It seems that the reason behind this unintellectual strategy is our deeply anchored Western worldview which derives from atomistic and reductionist thinking, mechanistic industrial age societal and economic models as well as a materialistic conception of wellbeing.

In front of the threat of climate change and other complex sustainability problems, reformist changes in our economy, production and energy systems and consumption patterns can turn out to be inadequate. From the viewpoint of learning, reformist improvements are the best we can achieve by cognitive and meta-cognitive thinking.

The Age of Sustainable Development

Transformative learning is about seeing our worldview from a reflective perspective. It can be questioned how well we can ever do this on our conscious level of thinking.

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Stepping out from our mental box and transforming our thinking requires a fundamental shift of viewpoint, unlearning and constructing a new worldview. Intuition can help us to unlearn our prevailing worldviews and assumptions and to create innovative new solutions. A strong leverage point for mind shift lies in the theory of Sense of Coherence , which defines subjective wellbeing comprising the complexity, manageability and meaningfulness of life.

This theory is especially applicable for explaining the origin of mental health disorders the Western world is currently facing. Consumerist society, rapidly advancing technologies and recurring crisis of our world have created a living environment in which mental and life management problems have become commonplace. Modern society is also suffering from vanishing meaningfulness of life to which the consumer-centred wellbeing paradigm has not been able to provide a solution. Modern wellbeing research suggests hope for a sustainable future. It provides strong evidence of the fact that the building blocks for meaningfulness and true happiness are mostly factors other than consumerism and material things.

True happiness and meaningful life consists of social relationships, encounters with other people, time spent with family, voluntary work and acts in the interests of other people, creative activities, etc. In practice, these findings suggest that we are able to achieve a greater state of life satisfaction and happiness in a society that is not based on the continuing growth of the economy and personal consumption. In the future school, transformative learning for a sustainable future should be the core mission of education.

Learning should be focused on understanding the connections between humans, nature, society and economy. This requires moving from subject-based orientation towards solving real-life problems with future skills like systems thinking, critical thinking, future thinking and interpersonal skills. Other than cognitive skills, the unconscious mind must be utilised intentionally as a source of creativity, empathy, complex problem-solving and holistic thinking.

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Character education with qualities such as mindfulness, curiosity, courage, resilience, ethics, leadership, sufficiency and planetary responsibility are an integral part of fostering change agents for a sustainable future. In order to achieve large-scale transformation, it is important to widen the scope of learning to organisational and societal levels. School must include all students as well as the staff in a common learning and development process of creating a sustainable school.


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School culture must provide experiences that provoke an emotional response and support the origin of intrinsic values, meaningfulness and the development of new worldviews built on existential understanding. Reforms to the education system may still not be enough to achieve transformative learning. The problem of our education systems may not be in teaching future competencies, but in the prevailing worldview of our society that fixes the values, contents, goals and methods of education.

It may be that our education system is a prisoner of its history which derives from the worldview of the industrial age and scientific reductionism. The world, society and power relations may need to change first before education system can do so. And even if there would be change, it is slow and gradual and not at all on a scale that would be needed to respond to escalating future crises.

Thus, a revolutionary approach that challenges the contemporary education system from every side may be needed to achieve true transformative learning. A vision for the future of school is based on a strong faith in the wisdom of our youngest generation. It would give complete liberation to its students to create the world they want—even if it would mean for us adults giving up our current ways of living. The future school would give coming generations tools for thinking and seeing the world differently, constructing their own worldviews and acting to create a sustainable future.

However, it would be open to everyone and learners of all ages. Schools would be self-organised living learning communities which were shaped by the learners. These communities would unite people and experts from different fields of inquiry to learn and make a sustainable future together.

The aim of these future learning communities would be to create deep meaningfulness, purpose and community for learners and act as active change agents. In the very heart of these communities is aspiration for a deep understanding of the essence of life and humanity. They are committed to breaking the boundaries of thinking and knowledge, and to learning that transforms the fundaments of life, existence and worldviews. They unleash intuitive knowledge and combine the intuitive potential of individuals.

The ultimate goal of networking would be a global ecosystem of communities with aspirations for a sustainable future through creating cultural transformation in society. The learners would create a web of change that formed the critical mass required for societal transformation. Even the most visionary future learning community cannot make a cultural transformation happen in a blink of an eye. One challenge to rapid change is the stringent tuning of our world which is related to interconnectedness and rapid flow of information, capital and people.

Keeping the financial pyramid standing requires ever-increasing profits.

Transforming Our Worldview Towards a Sustainable Future

It seems that the only way to keep our global system on a track is to constantly increase its volume. But how can we change if there is a great risk of a sudden economic collapse or human disaster if we tinker with the machine? A solution may be found in planning alternative futures. With only one unsecure paradigm for the global economic system, how can we explore and test a precautionary approach and necessities such as resilience? An ideal way to do this would be to adopt societal and global experimental policies for alternative solutions to organising society.

A problem with this approach is the fixed paradigm of institutions, businesses and decision-makers. A more realistic approach for creating alternative futures is bottom-up strategy. A cultural transformation for a sustainable future can emerge from individuals and communities developing new solutions such as organising local economies, improving subjective wellbeing and creating meaningful interaction between people. These communities can become self-sufficient and demonstrate real resilience against complex future problems. A key for cultural transformation is learning, sharing and disseminating these experiments and building ecosystems of communities with new worldviews, purposes, values and behaviour patterns.

Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World
Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World
Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World
Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World
Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World
Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World
Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World
Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World Economic Growth and Sustainability: Systems Thinking for a Complex World

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