Multimedia: Systems Thinking for Environmental Enlightenment


Systems thinking is a very powerful tool that can help us understand and teach about environmental issues. Visit to experience systems thinking in diverse contexts via a short video and two articles (one for educators and the other for students/general public). 

Earth is a very complex, dynamic system. Learning about and practicing systems thinking provides a very effective pathway for understanding, investigating, and explaining complex phenomena. For example, the video and articles clarify how an increase in global temperature of just one-degree Celsius is already causing global climate havoc via extreme weather events. 

Our planet is a very complex, dynamic system that is resilient and has feedback loops that stabilize its conditions and other feedback loops that can cause catastrophic results. We do not have the natural skills to readily envision these complex relationships, explain them to ourselves or others, and make the best choices of actions. We need to consciously develop system thinking skills, and effectively apply them.

These resources are especially useful for educators and students who are using NGSS three-dimensional education, especially the Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs). Systems thinking empowers each of the seven CCCs.

In addition, the video and articles highlight "emergent properties," which is a key feature of systems thinking that is not well described in NGSS literature. Systems have properties that are qualitatively different than the properties of their parts. Focusing on these whole system properties provides a depth of understanding that is otherwise lacking.