Systems Thinking – Seeing How Everything is Connected

By UPLIFT on Wednesday September 23rd, 2015

Systems Thinking: Seeing How Everything is Connected

We can't fix the ecological crisis until we change the mindset that got us into this mess.

People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Nowadays, most people seem to be aware of the ecological crisis facing our planet. We understand that our consumer lifestyles create toxic waste that pollutes the air, water and land. We understand that these come back to us and may account for the rise in health problems such as cancer, asthma and allergies.

We know that animal species are going extinct because of the forests we have cut down in order to raise cattle and grow popular “consumer” foods such as cocoa and coffee. Most of us grasp that the increase in carbon dioxide in the air (from our burning of fossil fuels) is making the earth warmer, which creates more hurricanes, melts glaciers and will lead to rising ocean levels and flooding.

We can understand how deforestation leads to an expansion of deserts, which then creates dust storms in Beijing and food shortages in Northern Africa. Thanks to the media and schools most people (not living in denial) understand the connections between these problems.

Spreading deserts threaten Africa

Realizing that actions in one area lead to problems in another

This is systems thinking, recognizing how everything is connected ecologically and interdependently, using our imaginations (visual intelligence) to understand how unwise actions in one area frequently lead to problems in another.

For several decades, human beings have been at a turning point in our evolution. We have started to view the world more ecologically, but still face huge problems that will not go away. Our challenge, I believe, is to encourage one another to think and behave more wisely, to listen to (and learn from) the wisdom of our greatest scientists, artists, writers, poets, philosophers, spiritual teachers and sages.

In order to change, it would be helpful for all of us to explore how the materialistic values and beliefs of “civilized” societies have contributed to problems such as racism, sexism, slavery, political corruption, environmental destruction, wealth imbalance, drug abuse, war and crime.

From Ego-logical to Eco-logical

The Shift from ‘Ego-logical’ to ‘Eco-logical’

We need to consciously question and re-think the predatory “ego-logical” worldview that has been passed down to us across the ages. Together, we have the opportunity to become wiser as a species, to either get back in tune with the more balanced and “eco-logical” Ways of Nature, or prepare our children for endless catastrophes in the future.

We need to gain a more complete grasp of root causes, to understand how social, economic and environmental systems become imbalanced, how problems begin and then grow because of how human societies think, behave and instruct their members.

A good place to begin would be to question the dominant “Humpty Dumpty” approach in the media, governments and schools that divides human reality up into disconnected compartments and topics, presenting the world to both adults and children in fragmented pieces, with little emphasis on how everything in human society and the natural world connects interdependently and functions together as a coherent whole.

Is test-based education working for our children?

The paradigm shift at the heart of the solution

Knowledge without deep comprehension, imagination and compassion is just a more complex form of ignorance. The human family has a profound opportunity now, to use our hearts and minds (wisdom and compassion) to understand and then solve the countless difficulties that we have been grappling with.

We have to encourage our children to think and learn more naturally, to understand how the systems that surround us all flow together and are connected, because until the true nature of a problem is understood deeply (and cared about) it cannot be solved, creatively.

We need to shift paradigms, to grow wiser, all of us, especially the dominant cultures and civilizations. We are good at taking tests and building machines, because we have learned to think mechanistically. Such thinking got us to the moon, but it’s never going to solve the social, cultural and ecological problems that it helped to create.

“I like to experience the universe as one harmonious whole. Every cell has life. Matter, too, has life; it is energy solidified. The tree outside is life… The whole of nature is life… The basic laws of the universe are simple, but because our senses are limited, we can’t grasp them. There is a pattern in creation. – Albert Einstein, How Einstein Saw the World

Systems Science

I think the difficulty is this fragmentation.. All thought is broken up into bits. Like this nation, this country, this industry, this profession and so on… And they can’t meet. That comes about because thought has developed traditionally in a way such that it claims not to be effecting anything but just telling you the way things are. Therefore, people cannot see that they are creating a problem and then apparently trying to solve it… Wholeness is a kind of attitude or approach to the whole of life. If we can have a coherent approach to reality then reality will respond coherently to us. – David Bohm, Wholeness: A Coherent Approach to Reality




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3 Responses to Systems Thinking – Seeing How Everything is Connected

  1. Paleo-Conservatives who represented the kingdoms in a pyramid form, also understood the interdependence of the systems, and respected it. This type of philosophy was deeply instilled in the Boy Scouts, for one example of Conservative Republican Life.

    What we see today in both Parties is a perversion of once-constitutional American Politics. Yes, our politics used to be degrees of more or less conservative (keep what’s good) or (liberal) broad freedoms, within the constraints Constitution; liberty to the degree we do not infringe on another’s rights. Unfortunately this latter concept has been perverted and hyperliteralized to the degree we may use loud profanity in front of small children in a diner, but a football player cannot kneel and give thanks for a few seconds.

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