Very simply Systems Theory says that there are many causes and many effects in any given situation. This complex interplay of conditions can look chaotic and confused but in fact have patterns of interaction. All systems are a complex interaction of information matter and energy. This systems view of life has several fundamental properties:
Importantly systems theory challenges the assertion that we can act as if we can control the world. It brings in to question the belief that humans are superior beings, separate from nature which we can dominate by our superior intellect. These ways of thinking are profoundly embedded in the culture of the Industrial Growth Society. However, as the ecological saying goes: 'It is not just that the world is more complex than you think; it is more complex than you can think.'
The principles of ecology are fundamentally based on a systems view of life. Human beings are not seen as separate from nature. Humans are part of the dynamic web of life on the planet and cannot exist without the complex systems of life that support them.
The ecological principles of networks and cycles driven by solar energy, partnership, diversity and dynamic balance could not be understood without the concept of non-linear dynamics.
These principles are directly relevant to our health and well being. We are embedded in the cyclical processes of nature. We depend on the purity of air and water and soil for our health and these are supported by the natural systems and other beings on the planet.
It also shows that where networks of life have been irrevocably damaged, as in some oceans areas, evolution is running in reverse. Higher (and systemically more fragile) organisms are being killed and primitive organisms, slimes and jellyfish, are thriving. We, as higher organisms very dependant on a viable and alive biosphere, need to take heed of this.
When we acknowledge our dependence on the biosphere ecological sustainability becomes vitally important. Systems theory shows us that we do not need to invent sustainable human communities from scratch, but can model them on natures eco-systems which have an inherent ability to sustain life.
Systems theory is of increasing importance in the understanding of our social functioning. It helps us ask novel questions, and provides an analytical tool that acknowledges the complexity of out social interaction. Its application has lead to important insights and the understanding that man’s social structures are not independent from the material world.
It is able to provide a critique of our present social structures, for example the way that economic globalisation interferes with the inherent ability of the biosphere to sustain life.
It enables us to look at what kinds if social organisation would be helpful and how social change could be promoted.
It looks at the process of change, the importance of diversity, inclusively, the promotion of novelty and 'thinking outside the box' within organisations.
It would encourage participatory groups on a local scale networking and co-ordinating and sharing information on a global scale. It argues that social change in our network society develops from identities based on the rejection of the Industrial Growth Society’s values. It sees that ethics at all levels are indivisible from the promotion of a life sustaining future.
On a more personal level it promotes the dignity if the individual, the importance skills and learning and the necessity of innovation. It encourages us to acknowledge our underlying values of care for each other and the world based on our life experience.
Finally it connects people with the material world and provides the principles of eco design, looking at ways that we could survive in a sustainable future.
The Eco-Dharma Centre is situated in a beautiful and wild part of the Catalan Pyrenees. We offer courses, events and retreats which support the realisation of our human potential and the development of an ecological consciousness honouring our mutual belonging within the web of life – drawing on the Buddhist Dharma and the emerging ecological paradigms of our time.
Site developed by Nick Day.