“We can’t solve problems
by using the same kind of thinking we used
when we created them. "
Today we face environmental and social problems of ever-increasing complexity. Our planet now hosts over seven billion humans compared to only about one billion in 1900. The crush of humans has caused an enormous negative impact on oceans, terrestrial systems and the atmosphere. Some of the seemingly intractable problems are desertification, bleaching of coral reefs, destruction of vast expanses of forests by fire and bark beetles, climate change, invasive species, spread of exotic diseases (ebola, West Nile Virus), and depletion of fisheries.
Increasing numbers of scientists have recognized that these kinds of problems are not solved by addressing them in isolation with traditional approaches, but should be seen for what they are - richly connected, nonlinear, complex systems (See the simplified causal loop diagram above, illustrating the connection between the extraction of oil from tar sands in Alberta Canada and the devastating bark beetle epidemic in British Columbia. ) Without a holistic perspective informing our solutions of these complex environmental problems, we can expect to see little gain from our continued efforts and possibly severe unintended consequences. Fortunately, an interdisciplinary body of knowledge, generally called systems science, has matured over the last few decades which provides promise. A perspective, and set of tools, have emerged from that body of knowledge to offer an integrated, holistic approach to finding solutions to these entangled problems. This systems biology course is designed to provide a first step for students and practitioners to acquire the necessary systems/holistic perspective, systems thinking, and systems tools to address our complex future.
Click on SYLLABUS above to see the details of the course.