Thinking in Systems A Primer

ISBN-10: 1603580557

ISBN-13: 9781603580557

Edition: 2008

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Description: In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller,Limits to Growththe first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001. Meadows newly released manuscript,Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institutes Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life. Some of the biggest problems facing the worldwar, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradationare essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking. While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner. In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent,Thinking in Systemshelps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.

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Book details

List price: $19.95
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date: 12/3/2008
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 240
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 0.60" tall
Weight: 1.012

Trained as a biophysicist, American scientist Donella H. Meadows earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Early in her career, Meadows was a member of a joint Harvard-MIT research group that developed a computer simulation model clarifying relationships between growth and finite resources on the earth. Using this model, the Club of Rome sponsored extensive research that resulted in the best-selling book, "The Limits to Growth" (1972), co-authored by Meadows and others. Attention was focused on a doomsday prognosis if growth continued unchecked. Meadows and her associates, however, presented options for achieving a sustainable society if there were a movement away from dependence on growth, equity in wealth, and if technologies were used to enhance efficiency of natural-resource use. "Toward Global Equilibrium" (1973) and "Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World" (1974) are companion technical volumes to "The Limits to Growth." They present reports on the simulation models, examinations of economic, political, and ethical implications of the findings, and a detailed description of the computer model, World3. In addition to her research sponsored by the Club of Rome, Meadows, as one of the editors of "Groping in the Dark" (1982), fully articulates that basic human needs can be met in the future if social and political structures, as well as values, do not hinder efforts for sustainability and equity. Meadows states that equity, rather than individual and national-wealth aggrandizement, is increasingly recognized as a major factor in planetary survival. Twenty years after "The Limits to Growth," Meadows and others in "Beyond the Limits" (1992) find that some options for a sustainable future have narrowed. However, they claim that new technologies can, if employed wisely, contribute to sustainability. The book emphasizes social-policy options rather than models. After working for two years on the Club of Rome research project, Meadows became a member of the faculty at Dartmouth College where she is systems analyst and adjunct professor in the Environmental Studies Program. Meadows has a lifestyle that reflects her views about sustaining finite resources and valuing equity rather than personal economic gain. Although she remains an academic, her interests have shifted from biophysics toward philosophy. She has lived in a commune, studies Zen Buddhism, and believes that people today are ultimately responsible for a future that holds "unspeakable horrors or undreamed-of wonders."

A Note from the Author
A Note from the Editor
Introduction: The Systems Lens
System Structures and Behavior
The Basics
A Brief Visit to the Systems Zoo
Systems and Us
Why Systems Work So Well
Why Systems Surprise Us
System Traps ... and Opportunities
Creating Change-in Systems and in Our Philosophy
Leverage Points-Places to Intervene in a System
Living in a World of Systems
Appendix
System Definitions: A Glossary
Summary of Systems Principles
Springing the System Traps
Places to Intervene in a System
Guidelines for Living in a World of Systems
Model Equations
Notes
Bibliography of Systems Resources
Editor's Acknowledgments
About the Author
Index
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