This is Chris Marion's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Chris Marion's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Chris Marion
Recent Activity
I appreciate your thoughtful questioning of these concepts put fourth by the authors of this week’s material. Much of the reading described the benefits and opportunities offered by a learning network: multi-scalar collaboration, innovation, cross-sector cooperation, etc. I would think most people agree with these potential outcomes- it’s hard to argue against it. The issue is that one of these stakeholders will eventually be tasked with making a decision. But, does this decision honor the learning network? While your post does point out a potential shortcoming, I further appreciate that you acknowledge other ways in which a learning network can be successful. The fact that a learning network supports cross and multi-scalar cooperation is perhaps a success on its own, even if the federal agency has the final word.
Toggle Commented Nov 27, 2017 on An Ode to Problem Solving at Smetsys
I found your interpretation of leverage points to be useful in further understanding this concept. As we've explored these concepts over the past several months, I've continually thought that perhaps systems thinking is something that successful professionals are constantly doing, even if they aren't aware of it. This is supported by the text that you quoted in your post, referring to the average manager's ability to naturally identify leverage points within their domain. I suppose my takeaway from this idea is that identifying leverage points is really only a first (and maybe trivial) step in the process of making systemic change. The systems perspective will hopefully be informative in which direction that leverage point needs to be pushed, in hopes of avoiding the unintended.
Toggle Commented Nov 13, 2017 on Russian Dolls at Smetsys
I appreciate how you’ve extended this concept of leverage points and underlying causes to issues regarding GMO food. I understood the underlying fear as the root cause in two ways: historical and current. First you have the initial introduction of GMO into the agricultural industry. The widespread adoption of GMO crops was perhaps accelerated by fear based motives- a reliable crop annually, a more productive yield, more economic security, and less vulnerability to crop destroying pests. And currently, we see the opposition to GMO food is based on similar fears concerning human and ecological health. This analysis really looks past the “tip of the iceberg”, as described in the readings. Interestingly, this concept of a fear-based structure is common throughout the world’s religious and spiritual teachings. The concept of “fear versus love” appears in historical and contemporary text- perhaps the concept is central to the human dilemma. Is fear the root of the world’s problems?
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2017 on Fear at Smetsys
The most interesting part of this post is the comment on how the Minerals Management Service failed its primary responsibility to protect the business aspects of the operation. This reminded me of our previous discussion on ecological accounting and environmental responsibility within the private sector. How do business interests affect resilience efforts? Surely resilience actions will require additional expenses, personnel, and strategic planning. I wonder how resilience can be integrated into a business model in a way that doesn’t compromise the effectiveness of the strategies? The Presidential Policy Directive addressed some of these concerns, but still leaves this question of are the regulated also the regulators?
Toggle Commented Oct 30, 2017 on Resting Upon Laurels at Smetsys
I can definitely agree with your comment: “easy to say, hard to accomplish”. I think this concept can be found as an underlying motive in Lovin’s A Finer Future Is Possible. The excerpt reminds us that “…we have all the technologies we need to make a good start at crafting a life of dignity and quality for all people on earth…” (Lovins, 2017). So if we know what issues need to be addressed and we know how to fix these problems, then why haven’t we? We’ve seen great advancements in regenerative design, especially in the built environment- Green buildings, effective storm water management, organic farms, etc. But regenerative design has barely affected our economic system, which the readings suggest is the most crucial part of the puzzle. I think Fullerton’s 8 principles of regenerative capitalism is a good place to start- a way to conceptualize how an economy will survive and thrive within a socio-ecological system.
Toggle Commented Oct 23, 2017 on Our System Needs a Facelift at Smetsys
I also finished the article feeling a bit confused about the feasibility of the project outcomes. On principle, I understand the argument that these three trends in sustainable business practices are changing the ways in which corporations approach sustainability. But some of the claims made by the authors in The Sustainable Economy might need further explanation. For example, the authors state, “it will be evident that a better VCI score helps value chain players grow shares while reducing risk- and increases their access to low-cost capital” (Chouinard, Ellison, Ridgeway, 2011). I question the likelihood of such a scenario occurring. Like your Energy Star example, extend the situation to a company like Patagonia. I fully support the company and their corporate commitment to sustainability, but there’s an affordability barrier for me to “vote with the dollar”. Perhaps it is important to acknowledge that The Sustainable Economy argument is a 3 pronged approach- one that recognizes the convergence of multiple trends that will yield a projected impact larger than the sum of its parts.
Toggle Commented Oct 16, 2017 on Economics at Smetsys
This post touches on an important theme: ways in which accountability is affected by anonymity. The examples used in this post describe this dilemma perfectly by exploring how this plays out at different scales. In the acequia example, we have a small rural community in which people know each one another, they respect agreements, and are therefore able to effectively regulate the use of a common resource. In the Senegal scenario, we have an international (and environmental) problem where the impacts are intensified because there is little accountability among the actors. With an understanding of this anonymity-accountability dilemma, its not surprising that our biggest environmental challenge concerns what is perhaps the world’s largest shared resource, the atmosphere. Unlike a local pollution problem, within a watershed for example, American culture feels few effects of global greenhouse gas emissions- making us anonymous offenders who feel limited consequences. Your post reminded me to question ways to hold ourselves accountable for global resources?
Toggle Commented Oct 9, 2017 on Anonymity at Smetsys
I think you make some interesting points here in how complex systems are framed and understood by the public. As mentioned, Glenn Easterbrook’s example highlights 8 different perspectives on the same GMO debate. The problem is that each of these perspectives is shortsighted, simplified for the sake of understanding. The systems thinking approach is what Easterbrook attempted in the article: to recognize all stakeholders’ perspectives in one comprehensive outlook. As demonstrated in the provided video clip, the reality is that these “wicked” problems are often oversimplified (for better or probably worse). This is why I found the Cleland and Wyborn article so intriguing. By using “Visual Methods” (Rich pictures and ReefGame) the researchers were able to engage with the stakeholders in a way that didn’t oversimplify the problem, rather the methods increased the overall understanding. I wonder if it’s possible to “systems hack” the media’s interpretation of climate change in a similar fashion? Nice video, again! -- Chris Marion
Toggle Commented Sep 25, 2017 on Systems Complexity at Smetsys
There is certainly an element of doomsday, survivalist mentality within resilience and self-sufficiency groups. I think you make a good point that the environmental challenges that we face are so overwhelming and complicated that many people see the “doomsday prepper” approach the only realistic way to survive when SHTF. The emergence of the “lifeboat communities” and the NatGeo show titled Doomsday Preppers, confirm this reality. I’ve recently started a book titled Regenerative Development and Design (Mang, Haggard) that offers an expanded way of understanding resilience. In the introduction, the authors states that “… the resilience approach arises from the metaphor of a world spinning out of control and can result in a complex game of avoidance and rapid recovery” (Mang, Haggard, 2017). The authors argue that resilience is one of four areas of future sustainability work. They describe these levels of work as a hierarchy system, with each building upon the previous. Operation and Maintaining are focused on current existence; increasing performance, efficiency, and resilience of physical and social structures. Improving and Regenerating are focused on adding new value and capitalizing on unrealized potential. Perhaps this is one way to frame “resilience” in a way that is a little more optimistic and hopeful. Personally, I find it healthy to explore ways in which human ingenuity and creativity are part of the solution- and resilience is certainly a fundamental part of that process. -- Chris Marion
Toggle Commented Sep 17, 2017 on Doomsday Science at Smetsys
I thought the video clip was a great addition to your position that applied systems thinking requires a foundational (and practical) understanding of the industry to which the model is being applied. How are we to comprehend flows, feedback loops, and time delays without a fundamental understanding of the field? And will our systems thinking analysis be shortsighted without that basic understanding? Perhaps systems thinking is best applied with an interdisciplinary approach, where we’re synthesizers of information rather than specialists. Understanding the “basics” is of course a necessity, but a comprehensive understanding of molecular biology, for example, may quickly reach a point of diminishing returns for a systems analysis. A broader scope might allow us to more accurately observe connections, patterns, and behavior of a system. Modern (western) healthcare is a good example of how the specialist approach both succeeds and fails depending on the situation. Often times it is the specialist, and only the specialist, who is able to identify a specific, complex problem. Other times, a situation might require a generalist, or synthesizer, to look at the problem from multiple angles to identify the best action. That said, I think I agree with your concluding remark!
Chris Marion is now following The Typepad Team
Sep 9, 2017