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Sustainability from ecological anthropology: the second life of trees

What might a non-anthropocentric view of sustainability look like?  This would probably include regeneration of species alongside others in the ecosystem.  With some recent presentations, an idea that resonates with audiences is the “The Second Life of Trees”, credited by Tim Ingold (2002) to John Knight (1998).  Ingold sees continuity of life not only of each species, but in the co-respondences of species alongside each over many lifelines.

As background, Gilberto Gallopin (2003) is helpful in describing what sustainability might NOT be about.  Firstly, an extreme anthropocentric position.

Sustainability of the human system only. This position, if taken to the extreme, could result in the Earth becoming a totally artificialized planet if total substitutability of natural resources and services were possible. The classical economicist view, for instance, regards the economy as the relevant system, and relegates nature to the role of provider of natural resources and services and of a sink for the wastes produced by human activities (Figure 3).

This is consistent with the notion of “very weak sustainability” 10 (Turner 1993). The very weak sustainability approach asserts that natural and manufactured capital can substitute perfectly for one another.

Then, there’s an extreme biocentric position.

Sustainability of the ecological system primarily, even if it means elimination or displacement of the human component (Figure 4).

Read more (in a new tab)

What might a non-anthropocentric view of sustainability look like?  This would probably include regeneration of species alongside others in the ecosystem.  With some recent presentations, an idea that resonates with audiences is the “The Second Life of Trees”, credited by Tim Ingold (2002) to John Knight (1998).  Ingold sees continuity of life not only of each species, but in the co-respondences of species alongside each over many lifelines.

As background, Gilberto Gallopin (2003) is helpful in describing what sustainability might NOT be about.  Firstly, an extreme anthropocentric position.

Sustainability of the human system only. This position, if taken to the extreme, could result in the Earth becoming a totally artificialized planet if total substitutability of natural resources and services were possible. The classical economicist view, for instance, regards the economy as the relevant system, and relegates nature to the role of provider of natural resources and services and of a sink for the wastes produced by human activities (Figure 3).

This is consistent with the notion of “very weak sustainability” 10 (Turner 1993). The very weak sustainability approach asserts that natural and manufactured capital can substitute perfectly for one another.

Then, there’s an extreme biocentric position.

Sustainability of the ecological system primarily, even if it means elimination or displacement of the human component (Figure 4).

Read more (in a new tab)

Appreciating Systems Changes via Multiparadigm Inquiry: Architectural Design, Ecological Anthropology, Classical Chinese Medicine, Systems Rhythms | ISSS plenary 2022-07-08

On the path towards a publication in 2023, this plenary talk for the International Society for the Systems Sciences 66th Annual Meeting came with a preamble. Slides were provided in advance at http://coevolving.com/commons/2022-07-08-appreciating-systems-changes, so that details might be later perused at leisure.

Here is the agenda for the presentation:

A. Rising interest in System(s) Change(s)
B. Appreciative Systems (Vickers)
C1.
Philosophy of Architectural Design
C2.
Philosophy of Ecological Anthropology
C3.
Philosophy of Classical Chinese Medicine
C4.
Philosophy of Rhythms
D. Methods: Multiparadigm Inquiry, Open Theorizing
E. Systems Changes via Three Philosophies → Systems Rhythms
F. Contributions that Systems Rhythms Offer to Systems Changes

A key aim of the presentation was to elevate systems rhythms as central to understanding. With a 60-minute time slot, an expectation was set that progress towards the table on slide 43 (Part E) would be expedited. Flipping rapidly through philosophies of architectural design, ecological anthropology, and Classical Chinese Medicine, slide 43 was reached at 25 minutes. At 44 minutes, questions and comments were welcomed. While other presentations orient more towards theory and pratice (that the audience may not have already encountered), the emphasis for this session was more methodological.

This video available on Youtube has also been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
July 8
(1h12m)
[20220708_ISSS_plenary Ing_AppreciatingSystemsChanges.m4v]
(HD 1536×720 325kbps 237MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
July 8
(1h12m)
[20220708_ISSS_plenary_Ing_AppreciatingSystemsChanges.mp3
Read more (in a new tab)

On the path towards a publication in 2023, this plenary talk for the International Society for the Systems Sciences 66th Annual Meeting came with a preamble. Slides were provided in advance at http://coevolving.com/commons/2022-07-08-appreciating-systems-changes, so that details might be later perused at leisure.

Here is the agenda for the presentation:

A. Rising interest in System(s) Change(s)
B. Appreciative Systems (Vickers)
C1.
Philosophy of Architectural Design
C2.
Philosophy of Ecological Anthropology
C3.
Philosophy of Classical Chinese Medicine
C4.
Philosophy of Rhythms
D. Methods: Multiparadigm Inquiry, Open Theorizing
E. Systems Changes via Three Philosophies → Systems Rhythms
F. Contributions that Systems Rhythms Offer to Systems Changes

A key aim of the presentation was to elevate systems rhythms as central to understanding. With a 60-minute time slot, an expectation was set that progress towards the table on slide 43 (Part E) would be expedited. Flipping rapidly through philosophies of architectural design, ecological anthropology, and Classical Chinese Medicine, slide 43 was reached at 25 minutes. At 44 minutes, questions and comments were welcomed. While other presentations orient more towards theory and pratice (that the audience may not have already encountered), the emphasis for this session was more methodological.

This video available on Youtube has also been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
July 8
(1h12m)
[20220708_ISSS_plenary Ing_AppreciatingSystemsChanges.m4v]
(HD 1536×720 325kbps 237MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
July 8
(1h12m)
[20220708_ISSS_plenary_Ing_AppreciatingSystemsChanges.mp3
Read more (in a new tab)

Living, Becoming, Process Philosophy: Systems Thinking in Time (ST-ON 2022-01-10)

System thinking, coming from roots in mainstream Western philosophy, tends to orient towards (i) thinking in space,  before (ii) thinking in time.  Structure is an arrangement in space.  Process is an arrangement in time.  A critical systems perspective leads us to think about inclusion within boundaries.  Does this lead us to overlook boundaries in time?

Living systems are a subtype of systems in general.  The capability for autonomous movement might lead us towards a philosophy of “becoming with” as “becoming alongside”.  This can lead us towards a challenging shift towards process philosophy.

Participants in Systems Thinking Ontario session were invited to discuss, and potentially reframe their view of systems.

This video has been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
January 10
(1h32m)
[20220110_ST-ON LivingBecomingProcessPhilosophy_FHD.m4v]
(FHD 954kbps 718MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
January 10
(1h32m)
[20220110_ST-ON LivingBecomingProcessPhilosophy.mp3]
(34.1MB)

A short presentation provided some shared context for discussion.

Agenda:

  • A. Some Systems Thinking Basics
  • B. Hawk (1999):  Change of state vs. State of change
  • C. Ingold (2000): Temporality of the Landscape
  • D. Nayak & Chia (2011):  Process Philosophy
  • E. Discussion

Some who attended the session have read Process and Reality, by Alfred North Whitehead.  I haven’t. (It’s difficult!)  I’m leaning more on readings theorizing living systems.

Here is the content from the original announcement.

Structure is an arrangement in space.… Read more (in a new tab)

System thinking, coming from roots in mainstream Western philosophy, tends to orient towards (i) thinking in space,  before (ii) thinking in time.  Structure is an arrangement in space.  Process is an arrangement in time.  A critical systems perspective leads us to think about inclusion within boundaries.  Does this lead us to overlook boundaries in time?

Living systems are a subtype of systems in general.  The capability for autonomous movement might lead us towards a philosophy of “becoming with” as “becoming alongside”.  This can lead us towards a challenging shift towards process philosophy.

Participants in Systems Thinking Ontario session were invited to discuss, and potentially reframe their view of systems.

This video has been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
January 10
(1h32m)
[20220110_ST-ON LivingBecomingProcessPhilosophy_FHD.m4v]
(FHD 954kbps 718MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
January 10
(1h32m)
[20220110_ST-ON LivingBecomingProcessPhilosophy.mp3]
(34.1MB)

A short presentation provided some shared context for discussion.

Agenda:

  • A. Some Systems Thinking Basics
  • B. Hawk (1999):  Change of state vs. State of change
  • C. Ingold (2000): Temporality of the Landscape
  • D. Nayak & Chia (2011):  Process Philosophy
  • E. Discussion

Some who attended the session have read Process and Reality, by Alfred North Whitehead.  I haven’t. (It’s difficult!)  I’m leaning more on readings theorizing living systems.

Here is the content from the original announcement.

Structure is an arrangement in space.… Read more (in a new tab)

Theoretical Grounds, Pragmatic Grounds: Methods for Reordering our Priorities through Systems Changes Learning (ST-ON 2020/10/19)

For the second of three workshops by the Systems Changes Learning Circle in October 2020, we convened a session for the monthly Systems Thinking Ontario meeting.  The focus of this workshop was a review of progress to date on methods by the scholarly team, informed by the adoption and use by the field team.

The framing of this presentation centered on developing methods that have validity balanced between theoretical grounds (i.e. it seems right based on logic and science) and pragmatic grounds (i.e. it works when applied in practice).

This workshop had more of a “teach-the-teachers” style to it, explaining the deeper choices in concepts, terms and techniques.  Compared to the other two workshops, this audience has a stronger grasp of systems theory.  Many regular attendees have attended meetings over the past 5 years.

In the web video , the presentation slides were mostly covered sequentially.  Attendees clarified their understandings with questions posed towards the end.

The video file are downloadable from the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 19
(1h57m)
[20201019_ST-ON_SystemsChanges.m4v]
(FHD 806kbps 790MB) [on the Internet Archive]

For those who like digital audio on-the-go, the session has been transcoded to MP3 .

Audio
October 19
(1h57m)
[20201019_ST-ON_SystemsChanges.mp3]
(44MB)

This session extended prior presentations on Systems Changes, with the benefit of the RSD9 version oriented towards designers having been completed just a few days earlier.  The freshness of that experience encouraged a reflections on ideas that had gone over over well fort the designers, as well as some examples and metaphors that may need to be rethought.… Read more (in a new tab)

For the second of three workshops by the Systems Changes Learning Circle in October 2020, we convened a session for the monthly Systems Thinking Ontario meeting.  The focus of this workshop was a review of progress to date on methods by the scholarly team, informed by the adoption and use by the field team.

The framing of this presentation centered on developing methods that have validity balanced between theoretical grounds (i.e. it seems right based on logic and science) and pragmatic grounds (i.e. it works when applied in practice).

This workshop had more of a “teach-the-teachers” style to it, explaining the deeper choices in concepts, terms and techniques.  Compared to the other two workshops, this audience has a stronger grasp of systems theory.  Many regular attendees have attended meetings over the past 5 years.

In the web video , the presentation slides were mostly covered sequentially.  Attendees clarified their understandings with questions posed towards the end.

The video file are downloadable from the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 19
(1h57m)
[20201019_ST-ON_SystemsChanges.m4v]
(FHD 806kbps 790MB) [on the Internet Archive]

For those who like digital audio on-the-go, the session has been transcoded to MP3 .

Audio
October 19
(1h57m)
[20201019_ST-ON_SystemsChanges.mp3]
(44MB)

This session extended prior presentations on Systems Changes, with the benefit of the RSD9 version oriented towards designers having been completed just a few days earlier.  The freshness of that experience encouraged a reflections on ideas that had gone over over well fort the designers, as well as some examples and metaphors that may need to be rethought.… Read more (in a new tab)

How do Systems Changes become natural practice?

The 1995 article by Spinosa, Flores & Dreyfus on “Disclosing New Worlds” was assigned reading preceding the fourth of four lectures for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University.  In previous years, this topic was a detail practically undiscussed, as digging into social theory and the phenomenology following Heidegger is deep.  Peter Jones and I are fans of ideas expanded into the 1999 book. I was privileged to visit personally with Fernando Flores in Berkeley in 2012, as I was organizing the ISSS 2012 meeting.  Contextualizing this body of work for a university course led into correlated advances in situated learning and communities of practice.

A preface to the lecture included The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, and revisiting Change as Three Steps to clarify what Kurt Lewin did and did not write.

The agenda was in four sections. In the timebox available, the lecture covered the first two:

  • A. Situated Learning + History-making
    • Legitimate Peripheral Participation + Practices (Lave, Wenger)
    • Skill Acquisition + Disclosing New Worlds (Dreyfus, Spinosa)
  • B. Commitment + Language-Action Perspective
    • Conversations for Action (Flores)
    • Deliverables, procedures, capacities, relationships

Slides for the last two sections were ready to go, but foregone in favour of other course work priorities.

  • C. Argumentation + Pattern Language
    • IBIS (Rittel), Timeless Way of Building (Alexancer)
    • Architectural Programming c.f. Designing
  • [postscript] (Open Innovation Learning)
    • Quality-generating sequencing; Affordances wayfaring; Anticipatory appreciating
    • Innovation learning for; Innovation learning by; Innovation learning alongside

This fourth lecture is available on Youtube as streaming web video.… Read more (in a new tab)

The 1995 article by Spinosa, Flores & Dreyfus on “Disclosing New Worlds” was assigned reading preceding the fourth of four lectures for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University.  In previous years, this topic was a detail practically undiscussed, as digging into social theory and the phenomenology following Heidegger is deep.  Peter Jones and I are fans of ideas expanded into the 1999 book. I was privileged to visit personally with Fernando Flores in Berkeley in 2012, as I was organizing the ISSS 2012 meeting.  Contextualizing this body of work for a university course led into correlated advances in situated learning and communities of practice.

A preface to the lecture included The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, and revisiting Change as Three Steps to clarify what Kurt Lewin did and did not write.

The agenda was in four sections. In the timebox available, the lecture covered the first two:

  • A. Situated Learning + History-making
    • Legitimate Peripheral Participation + Practices (Lave, Wenger)
    • Skill Acquisition + Disclosing New Worlds (Dreyfus, Spinosa)
  • B. Commitment + Language-Action Perspective
    • Conversations for Action (Flores)
    • Deliverables, procedures, capacities, relationships

Slides for the last two sections were ready to go, but foregone in favour of other course work priorities.

  • C. Argumentation + Pattern Language
    • IBIS (Rittel), Timeless Way of Building (Alexancer)
    • Architectural Programming c.f. Designing
  • [postscript] (Open Innovation Learning)
    • Quality-generating sequencing; Affordances wayfaring; Anticipatory appreciating
    • Innovation learning for; Innovation learning by; Innovation learning alongside

This fourth lecture is available on Youtube as streaming web video.… Read more (in a new tab)

Doing, not-doing; errors of commission, errors of omission

Should we do, or not-do?  Russell Ackoff, over many years, wrote about (negative) potential consequences:

There are two possible types of decision-making mistakes, which are not equally easy to identify.

  • (1) Errors of commission: doing something that should not have been done.
  • (2) Errors of omission: not doing something that should have been done.

For example, acquiring a company that reduces a corporation’s overall performance is an error of commission, as is coming out with a product that fails to break even. Failure to acquire a company that could have been acquired and that would have increased the value of the corporation or failure to introduce a product that would have been very profitable is an error of omission  [Ackoff 1994, pp. 3-4].

Ackoff has always been great with turns of phrases such as these.  Some deeper reading evokes three ideas that may be worth further exploration:

  • 1. Doing or not-doing may or may not invoke learning.
  • 2. Doing or not-doing invokes implicit orientations on time.
  • 3. Doing or not-doing raises question of (i) changes via systems of willful action, and/or (ii) changes via systems of non-intrusive action.

These three ideas, explored in sections below, lead us from the management of human affairs, beyond questions of science, and into question of philosophy.

For those interested in the history of philosophy and science, the three ideas above are followed by an extra section:

Read more (in a new tab)

Should we do, or not-do?  Russell Ackoff, over many years, wrote about (negative) potential consequences:

There are two possible types of decision-making mistakes, which are not equally easy to identify.

  • (1) Errors of commission: doing something that should not have been done.
  • (2) Errors of omission: not doing something that should have been done.

For example, acquiring a company that reduces a corporation’s overall performance is an error of commission, as is coming out with a product that fails to break even. Failure to acquire a company that could have been acquired and that would have increased the value of the corporation or failure to introduce a product that would have been very profitable is an error of omission  [Ackoff 1994, pp. 3-4].

Ackoff has always been great with turns of phrases such as these.  Some deeper reading evokes three ideas that may be worth further exploration:

  • 1. Doing or not-doing may or may not invoke learning.
  • 2. Doing or not-doing invokes implicit orientations on time.
  • 3. Doing or not-doing raises question of (i) changes via systems of willful action, and/or (ii) changes via systems of non-intrusive action.

These three ideas, explored in sections below, lead us from the management of human affairs, beyond questions of science, and into question of philosophy.

For those interested in the history of philosophy and science, the three ideas above are followed by an extra section:

Read more (in a new tab)
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