Initial Publication Date: December 6, 2013

Systems thinking and CAM

Climate change epitomizes a complex system that requires a cross-disciplinary perspective in order to understand its causes, consequences, and approaches to meet the challenges it poses. While navigating across disciplines can be challenging, taking a systems thinking approach to climate change education provides a unifying framework that can be applied to any discipline relevant to climate change and to understand how concepts from diverse disciplines interact.

Systems thinking focuses on how the components of systems change over time (dynamics, or patterns of behavior) and the interactions and feedbacks between system elements that cause those changes. Like all complex systems, climate change represents a dynamic system with many stocks and flows, nonlinear processes, feedbacks, time delays, and non-intuitive behaviors.

Using a systems thinking provides a means for students to explore how different concepts relevant to climate change are related to one another, to find leverage points that influence the natural and human systems involved, and to better understand how variables may change over time. We have also found that using a systems thinking framework is very effective for the medium of video because:

  • The frequently non-intuitive behavior of systems make for interesting and engaging stories, a key component of effective communication
  • Visual representations of complex interactions that are adaptable to video
  • Video lends itself well to the dynamic nature of systems