Overcoming the Dissociation Crisis

A report on the Global Online Policy Forum: Solutions from Crisis, from the Pathway to Paris project…

Systems thinking views systems as already containing the expression of their own virtues and their own failings. A system cannot fail, unless the failure is made possible by some component of the system. In our use of energy, in contact with the Earth’s climate system, there is a flaw: our system is not designed to maintain a reliable climate-energy balance. So, we are pushing past the limits of the system, and motivating/encountering disruption. If we understand this, we can better see our limits, understand our strengths, and leverage the virtues of the system to achieve an outcome conducive to human thriving.

The climate is a fabric of interlocking and overlapping energy transfers. The relational dynamics inherent in that reality matter. Balance in the way energy moves through the system provides us with a stable climate, conducive to agriculture and to civilization. Crisis is a disruption severe enough to interfere with our ability to apply our knowledge and ability and to carry on functioning as we expect to. Crisis is entropy.

Climate is a system of systems. Our energy system is not the whole story. Our economy, our politics, our personal tastes, and our undestanding, are not the whole story. It is in the interaction between and among these that we find ourselves facing entropy in life-sustaining systems. The crisis touches everyone, affects everyone, and can be influenced by everyone.

What might be the main insight emerging from this first week at the COP20, and from today’s discussion, is that engagement and collaboration are transformational. More is possible when we have the ability to put our talents, our intelligence, and our concerns, into action. It could be that what we learn from the systemic interactions between the human economy and the climate system is that dissociation obscures the wider meaning of our actions.

The road to a viable, scalable, lasting solution, then, runs through attention to relationships, to actions and outcomes, to the systems we inhabit. Together with presence of mind and engagement, these can repair our relationship to life-supporting systems, and get us better policy outcomes. And when we activate that awareness of our relationships, our action and impact, our role in deciding what comes next, we find there are simple, system-wide ways we can engage to achieve better policy outcomes. [Read the full report here…]

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