Letter: Thinking in systems
Education and systems thinking are critical to the three pillars of sustainability thriving: economics, social, environmental. The Colorado Mountain College course titled “Thinking in Systems” — SUS-301 — applied to the field of sustainability is an education bargain, economically. Socially, I became connected during class discussions in a moment of time to others with similar interest in the field of sustainability. Each person with a different life story is likely a group of people that I would not have interacted with otherwise.
I was introduced to and read portions of books and planning documents published by thought leaders applying systems thinking to the field of sustainability. The instructor, associate professor Kimberly Langmaid, Ph.D., for this course was great at providing guided learning and encouraged students to choose a project of personal interest as the vehicle to learning more and for interactive discussions that she led during class.
The sustainable resilient system challenge that I chose as a project during the course was to better understand the town of Eagle stocks of population growth, land use, housing mix and water consumption. The interconnections between these result in system dynamics that cannot be forecasted on a time scale that spans generations. Thus, modeling scenarios becomes a way to have informed debate and decision making that spans generations. The use of stock flow diagrams showing interconnections, leverage points, system traps and opportunities for creating resiliency was precursor to modeling interconnections for gaining insights as input into decision making. The key leverage points are visions of good life, values in action, along with education transmitting knowledge that affects values in action and informed prudent decision making. Individuals may make decision that are bounded rationality for themselves. Communities need to make decisions that are bounded rationality for the community generations yet to be born.