Complexity And The Environment


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Complexity And The Environment

  1. 1. Examining Sustainable & Environmental Problems A Complex Systems Approach Gavin D. J. Harper
  2. 2. You Will Hear: <ul><li>Frank Dixon </li></ul><ul><li>Sir Crispin Tickell </li></ul><ul><li>Tony Juniper </li></ul><ul><li>John Schnellnehuber </li></ul><ul><li>Michael Totten </li></ul><ul><li>David Wasdell </li></ul>
  3. 3. Define: Sustainability <ul><li>Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, Brundtland Commission, </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs&quot; </li></ul>
  4. 4. Villian (1996) Social Economical Ecological Viable Liveable Equitable * * Sustainable Solutions Taken from: Villian (1996)
  5. 5. Define: Complexity <ul><li>Complex Systems are systems which exhibit “Non-Linear” behaviour. </li></ul><ul><li>They possess common features which we identify with systems which are “complex”. </li></ul><ul><li>We see “emergent behaviour” from complex systems which would not be immediately apparent from analysing their component parts. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Conceptual Map of Complexity
  7. 7. Complex vs. Complicated <ul><li>In this context: </li></ul><ul><li>“Complicated” is the opposite of “Simple” whilst </li></ul><ul><li>“Complex” is the opposite of “Independent” </li></ul>
  8. 8. Systems & Behaviours <ul><li>When we look at “Complex Systems” we are looking at generalisms that can be drawn across different features of complexity. </li></ul><ul><li>Systems exhibit certain common structural features. </li></ul><ul><li>Systems then exhibit behaviours, which can be similar across different classes of system </li></ul>
  9. 9. Systems and Behaviours From Bar Yam (2002)
  10. 10. Emergent Behaviours <ul><li>Emergent Behaviours are the result of a small number of individual agents acting on their own to produce a small part of a bigger “emergent behaviour”. Clear examples are: Ant Hills are an emergent behaviour of a large number of ants working together in a complex manner and snowflakes, where one by one falling in a pile, they can produce an avalanche which has a much greater net effect than the individual flakes on their own. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Emergence : Ant Hills
  12. 12. Emergence : Avelanche
  13. 13. Emergent Behaviours <ul><li>A lot of “Sustainable & Environmental” problems arise as the result of the “emergent behaviour” of a large number of people in the Western World using goods and services in an unsustainable way. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Emergent Behaviours <ul><li>As individuals, our own actions have relatively little effect when examined in isolation, however, the combined effect of our co-ordinated decisions and actions is huge. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus many “unsustainable” situations arise as a result of the cumulative effect of our individual unsustainable behaviours. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Socio-Technical Systems <ul><li>When looking at solutions to Environmental & Sustainable problems, it can be seen that the fix is neither social nor technical exclusively. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Interdependence <ul><li>Interdependence is a key recurring theme in Complexity. We can see in many environmental & sustainable problems that they arise as a result of interdependence between different variables. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Globalisation & Interconnectedness <ul><li>Globalisation = Interconnectedness </li></ul><ul><li>Our Global “Economies” are very “interconnected”. </li></ul><ul><li>But there is a disconnection of “awareness” between consumers of products and the impact that the production of that product has. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Feedback <ul><li>From the interconnectedness in systems, feedback arises. </li></ul><ul><li>It comes in two flavours </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Positive Feedback: “Re-enforcing, escalating”. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Negative Feedback “Damping, Stabilising”. </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Complex Systems are Multi-Scalar <ul><li>Complex systems exist on many different scales. We can observe complexity on the “micro” level, and equally we can observe it on the “global” level. </li></ul><ul><li>Actions on the micro level affect the global level and vice versa. By looking at either the local or the global level, you lose a full understanding of “the complexity” of the situation. </li></ul>
  20. 20. The Multi-Scalar Nature of Complex Systems
  21. 21. Tony Juniper <ul><li>NGO Director from United Kingdom </li></ul><ul><li>Tony Juniper is the Director of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Vice-Chair of Friends of the Earth International (FOEI). </li></ul>
  22. 22. Tony Juniper <ul><li>Our local actions as consumers have global effects. The global effects that these actions have will eventually “feedback” and influence us on a local level. </li></ul><ul><li>There is a lack of “connectedness” between the actions we make as consumers and the knowledge of the effect that these have. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Tony Juniper Tony Juniper
  24. 24. Feedback In Artificial Systems
  25. 25. Feedback In Artificial Systems <ul><li>When using energy, there is a “lack of feedback” </li></ul><ul><li>Our meters are shut away in cupboards and dark corners, we receive bills quarterly, and most of the time these are paid by direct debit. </li></ul><ul><li>Where is the feedback? </li></ul>
  26. 26. Restoring Feedback
  27. 27. The Rebound Effect <ul><li>If I buy efficient appliances, an efficient condensing boiler, energy-efficient light bulbs and a more efficient car, I am helping to save the environment. </li></ul>
  28. 28. The Rebound Effect <ul><li>Wrong If: You use your appliances more because you can afford to, turn the heating up higher now it is cheaper to heat your home, leave the lights on for longer because they are cheaper to run and drive further as you are less worried about the fuel consumption of your car. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Natural Systems <ul><li>Lots of interconnectedness </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of ‘Feedback Loops’ </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of ‘Information’ Being Transmitted Through the System </li></ul><ul><li>COMPLEX </li></ul>
  30. 30. Man Made Systems <ul><li>Relatively little interconnectedness </li></ul><ul><li>Not Much Feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Lack Of Information </li></ul><ul><li>SIMPLE? </li></ul>
  31. 31. In Nature We See Complexity Man Designs Simplicity
  32. 32. Sir Crispin Tickell <ul><li>Sir Crispin Tickell is a career diplomat whose posts include British Ambassador to Mexico (1981-83), Permanent Secretary of the Overseas Development Administration (1984-87) and British Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1987-90). He is also Chairman of the UK Government Panel on Sustainable Development, Chairman of the Climate Institute of Washington DC and is a senior visiting fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Sir Crispin Tickell <ul><li>Jokers in the Pack & Feedback Loops </li></ul>
  34. 34. Sir Crispin Tickell
  35. 35. David Wasdell <ul><li>Director of the Meridian Project </li></ul><ul><li>Ongoing research into Climate Change, in particular the all-too-real possibility that the whole earth system is being triggered by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions into positive feedback and consequent accelerated runaway global heating. </li></ul>
  36. 36. David Wasdell <ul><li>Climate Change </li></ul><ul><li>Escalator Analogy </li></ul>
  37. 37. David Wasdell
  38. 38. Complex Causes & Effects
  39. 39. Michael Totten <ul><li>Michael Totten is Senior Director for Climate and Water at the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, based in Washington DC. He co-founded the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology and was instrumental in drafting the Global Warming Prevention Act of 1989. </li></ul>
  40. 40. John Schnellnhuber CBE <ul><li>John Schellnhuber is the German government’s Chief Advisor on climate change. He is also the founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research and a former Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in England. In 2004 he received an honorary CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in recognition of his accomplishments in advancing a cross-disciplinary understanding of climate change. </li></ul>
  41. 41. Michael Totten & John Schnellnhuber
  42. 42. Frank Dixon <ul><li>Financial Consultant, Financial Analyst from United States </li></ul><ul><li>Frank Dixon is Managing Director of Research & Development at Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, New York. </li></ul>
  43. 43. Frank Dixon <ul><li>Reductionist Perspectives which don’t consider the whole are flawed. </li></ul><ul><li>Simplistic Economic Theories & Ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Failure to incorporate externalities </li></ul><ul><li>Limits to Growth </li></ul><ul><li>Growing forever not rational in a finite system. </li></ul>
  44. 44. Frank Dixon
  45. 45. Over Simplistic Economics? <ul><li>Conventional Wisdom: </li></ul><ul><li>Bottom Line, Profit, Growth, “What’s in it for me?” </li></ul><ul><li>Complexity Wisdom: </li></ul><ul><li>Full Cost Accounting, Environmental, Economical, Social </li></ul>
  46. 46. Traditional Economics Source
  47. 47. Traditional Economics Source
  48. 48. Traditional Economics
  49. 49. Traditional Economics The Economy
  50. 50. Path Dependence <ul><li>Another feature of Complex Systems, is that they are often “path-dependent”, that is to say that decisions taken in the systems ‘past’ can have a dramatic effect on the behaviour of the system in the future. </li></ul>
  51. 51. Path Dependence We make decisions about the technologies we use to generate our energy, how we deal with our waste, how we build our homes. E.t.c If we accept path-dependence, then the decisions we take now about the technologies and societal structures we choose to implement may affect our future options for change.