The Butterfly Effect

I have heard it argued that there is no hope of achieving ecological sustainability until we really understand the whole biophysical and social system in which we live, in all its complexity, and that much greater effort should be aimed at achieving such understanding through systems modelling. In my view, despite recent advances in systems theory and information technology, the complexity of the system is such that this kind of understanding will always be beyond us.

However, all is not lost, because I suggest we don’t need to understand all the intricacies of this massive and extremely complicated system in order to move forward to a biosensitive society.

The approach we advocate is much simpler. All that is required initially is a single, if highly significant, change in the system. This change would consist simply of spreading understanding across the prevailing cultures of the world – understanding of the story of life and the human place in nature. This new understanding would thus become embedded at the heart of the prevailing cultures.

This single change in the system would have far-reaching repercussions throughout the whole of society – the butterfly effect of chaos theory. It would lead, first, to sweeping changes in the worldviews and priorities of the prevailing cultures themselves. Unlike the situation today, these cultures would hold profound respect for nature, and the achievement of harmony with the processes of life would be given the highest priority in human affairs.

This fundamental cultural shift in understanding, worldviews and priorities would be followed by the introduction of new biosensitive cultural arrangements (e.g. economic systems, government regulations, population policies, structure of the work force) and then to biosensitive human activities (e.g. energy use, forestation, manufacturing, consumer behaviour, lifestyles).

Naïve? Unrealistic? Perhaps; but if so, then I think there is little hope for humanity.

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