Thinking in Systems: A Primer
In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the 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.
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 Institute’s 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 world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are 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 Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.
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rain evaporation water in reservoir river inflow discharge Figure 3. a stock of
water in a reservoir with multiple inflows and outflows. The volume of wood in the
living trees in a forest is a stock. Its inflow is the growth of the trees. Its outflows
The amount of water in the tub stays constant at whatever level it had reached
when the inflow became equal to the outflow. It is in a state of dynamic
equilibrium—its level does not change, although water is continuously flowing
faucet down again to match the outflow exactly, the water in the tub will stop
rising. Turn it down some more, and the water level will fall slowly. This model of
a bathtub is a very simple system with just one stock, one inflow, and one outflow.
You also may be able to adjust the outflow of money from your account, for
example. You can imagine an outflow-adjusting feedback loop for spending.
Feedback loops can cause stocks to maintain their level within a range or grow or
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What people are saying - Write a review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - jasoncomely - LibraryThing
A powerful introduction to systems thinking that deserves to be studied, pondered over and experimented with. Essential reading for anyone who want to expand their mind. Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - CassandraT - LibraryThing
Donella Meadows's expertise and experience is a strength of this book. There are a number of inspiring examples. However, as I am already familiar with system dynamics, the book was really ... Read full review