Whole Systems Design

To solve problems we need holistic thinking.

Once we recognize that everything is made up of interactive, interdependent systems, it becomes obvious that our individual health and wellbeing is closely tied to the health and wellbeing of both our society and the natural environment. To ignore this is to distort social priorities and investment decisions. Designing solutions to complex problems requires us to adopt a holistic (whole-systems) approach, one that recognizes all relevant factors. Sustainability means being environmentally, economically, technologically, and socially viable – which means it will be possible to design sustainable solutions only after we have defined these critical boundary conditions.

Is a Long Depression Unavoidable?

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Until underlying structural problems are addressed, the global economic recovery will be uneven, partial, and fragile. Consequently the 2020s are likely to be dominated by a protracted economic depression and growing political, economic, and environmental crises.


Spaceship Earth Mission Assurance

We feel safe taking plane trips because we know that airplanes are designed and maintained to ensure maximum safety. If our children are to have lives worth living, we need to apply the methods and standards used in the aerospace industry to the problem of preserving a safe environment and ensuring a safe future.

Andrew Wilford explains in this engaging video talk . . .

A Safety-Critical Systems Approach to Analysing, Managing,and Explaining Climate Change

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Aerospace design starts with establishing critical parameters for safe operation. The “Safety Case” determines design requirements. “Mission Assurance” methodologies are then used to build, operate and maintain vehicles to standards that ensure that essential human and mechanical systems always function within wide safety margins. Similar proactive risk management methods can be applied to critical socio-ecological problems like climate change.


A Realistic (Holistic) Approach to Climate Mitigation

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This article examines the Paris Climate Conference (COP) 21 agreement on climate mitigation; explains why current efforts are based on false assumptions and likely to fail; argues that holistic, integrative methods are needed to avoid disaster; and uses these methods to develop a three-track strategy for accelerating systemic transformation.


A Win-Win Strategy for Fossil-Fuel Producers and Environmentalists

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Resolving the climate/energy dilemma will not be easy, but it can be done. We do not have to choose between the environment and the economy, or between the interests of the developed and the developing world. There are win-win solutions.


The Ecology of Adventure Therapy: An Integral Systems Approach to Therapeutic Change

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Adventure Therapy (AT) has been rightly criticized for not recognizing the ecological paradigm of therapy conducted in wild nature. By including principles from integral systems theory, we offer adventure therapists a map, allowing for these seemingly disparate parts to fit together into a coherent whole. In addition, we propose that wilderness is a crucial cofacilitator in the change process. If seriously considered, these ideas pose a number of important questions for AT theory and practice.


Designing the Future: An Introduction to Rurban Design

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Given the challenge of sustaining 9 billion people in a world with diminishing energy reserves, we are unlikely to do better than accept the well-tested principles that living systems convey. Doing so will have transformative implications for the design of our urban and rural environments, our economic and governance systems, and our education systems. In this light, Richard Mochelle advcoates “rurban design”. The starting point of rurban design is the water catchment area, water being the most vital element in sustaining human life.