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Foggy Forest

SYSTEMS thinking is a way to make sense of the interconnected nature of life on earth. Systems and their emerging behaviour are part of what makes a place dynamic and ever changing. This can be seen in ecosystems, social systems, cultural systems, belief systems, economic systems and governance systems which constantly evolve. Any such living system creates patterns of behaviour but also unknown, unforeseen and unpredictable behaviours due to the many participants (or elements) in a systems and their relationships with each other. There is a constant stream of feedback through these relationships. When a system is in balance it displays healthy patterns of behaviour. For example, if all the predators in an ecosystem at the various levels of the food web are represented in just the right population numbers and no other external disturbances interfere such an ecosystem would be in a healthy functioning state.

Often when we try to 'create' systems change we pull on one string of a complex web of interactions and intend to create a certain outcome. Most of the time this can create unintended consequences that create more damage and disruption than was planned. Computer models are becoming more and more sophisticated in trying to predict what happens when we create small changes in a system. However, in reality there is no model that can accurately predict future outcomes. This means when we change land practices and governance there will be impacts on the entire system, some of which might be welcome and others not.

Fire spread prediction Feb 2020 Yuin Country
Natural Resources Wales Crown Copyright

It is tempting to think of ourselves outside of such systems as independent and objective observers. Instead we need to learn to step into the systems we are part of and inhabit them physically and literally. In other words we have to step into place and be part of it rather than separate ourselves from it. When we put place, land, Country or cynefin, whatever we you call it, at the centre of attention and decision-making we move towards systems transformation. When we aim for thriving living systems where whole-system health and wellbeing increase continually we are working towards regenerative sustainability [1]. 



REFERENCES​ 1. Gibbons, L. (2020), Regenerative - The New Sustainable?, Sustainability, 12, 5483, pp 1-19

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