Systems Thinking Tools

Biochar – a Critical View Through the Ecosystemic Lens

Monday, October 30th, 2017

I have been following the biochar story since it began to gain visibility over a decade ago. I view it from the perspective of forty years of farming informed by study of systems ecology. My understanding of both of these pursuits has evolved over that time in ways that will inform this critique. I began [...]

Folk Tales, Foreign Policy, and the Value of Systems Thinking

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

In the tale of the boy who cried wolf, a boy who is tending sheep and serving as a lookout for wolves seeks to relieve his boredom and gain attention by crying wolf when in fact there is no wolf. This decision/policy succeeds for a while, then it no longer works. A systems thinking [...]

Why Systems Thinking?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

My explicit focus on systems thinking in writing and teaching comes from an awareness, spreading slowly through the knowledge business, that it is an essential approach to all inquiry intended for application to real world problems. For its importance to be taken seriously and applied to all important issues in everyday life, systems thinking needs [...]

Food Production Systems in the Decline of the Industrial Age: A Call for a Socio-ecological Synthesis

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

The sustainability of industrial food production has long been under attack for its destruction of the soil, water, air and other products and services essential to life on earth. Now the massive consumption of energy and other resources needed to build and maintain industrial society has led to the depletion of these [...]

Why Trying to Save Industrial Civilization with Alternatives to Fossil Fuels Only Makes Things Worse

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

A recent Cornell report on how to convert New York state energy consumption to alternative fuels perpetuates the nonsense that in a declining economy we can convert NY or anywhere else to “clean” wind and solar energy, maybe dimming the lights a bit, and thus continue the party (industrial civilization and the US way of [...]

What systems thinking reveals: from biology to political economy

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

The way we do science today suffers greatly from the dominance of the reductionist paradigm. A general pattern has emerged where technologies based on purely reductive science work for a while as expected, then start to produce unexpected and often unwanted results, outcomes that at least from a reductionist perspective are a surprise and are [...]

The Case for a Disorderly Energy Descent

Friday, May 20th, 2011

The energy descent from peak oil production imposes decades of contraction in the global economy. An orderly contraction, particularly in the US, is not likely for a number of reasons. This is a summary of the case for a disorderly descent, garnered from many sources, a couple of which are listed at the end of [...]

On Invasives

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

What I will say here about the issue of invasives may seem picky, but it is not, because it points up a fundamental flaw in how we think about any intervention into the complex, systemic world in which we live.
The flaw running through the whole discourse about invasives is the tendency to see them too [...]

A sustainable agriculture research and education agenda to address a gathering crisis

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

A Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Agenda to Address a Gathering Crisis
Karl North 2002
The Crisis, in its multidimensionality, with likely multiplier effects across its elements:

Exponentially rising energy costs for coming decades as currently foreseeable alternative energy technologies fail to compensate for the end of cheap oil;
Gradual loss of most of the energy-intensive inputs that currently [...]

Introduction to Systems Thinking

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

A New Understanding of Root Cause—
Systems Thinking for Problem Solvers
By Karl North
“We’ll never be able to go back again to the way we used to think.” – anonymous holist

A Revolution in the Making
The insight that the world functions in complex, interdependent wholes drives a growing revolution in the way people are examining, understanding, [...]

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