archive-org.com » ORG » G » GENTLEACTION.ORG

Total: 131

Choose link from "Titles, links and description words view":

Or switch to "Titles and links view".
  • Gentle Action
    actions which begin from within the system in question and emerge in creative ways These may range from projects on an international scale to a simple action by an individual Such actions generally flow from what Peat has termed creative suspension that temporary pause when we listen and learn what the system has to teach us before taking action The Library section of this website contains papers that explore the nature of Gentle Action The Cases section gives examples of positive Gentle Action We invite you to send in your own experiences examples thoughts and creative solutions to info paricenter com which will then be posted on this site For more information on the book itself or to order a copy go to http www paripublishing com books gentleaction Please visit the Gentle Action group on Facebook where you can comment We shall also be posting clips on Youtube Youtube Click here for a Youtube clip Radio New Dimensions features an interview with F David Peat On its worldwide broadcast schedule in July Quantum Change Hosted by Michael Toms Program 3298 It will be airing the week July 15 through 21 You can hear it streaming for free on the New Dimensions website for two weeks beginning July 15 or you can download it for a small fee www newdimensions org You can also hear it on a radio station close to you Go to Listening Options in their website for a list of stations and carry New Dimensions This interview as well as over eight hundred others are part of their wonderful archive New Dimensions is working in partnership with Stanford University Library to digitize their entire archive of over 8000 hours of deep dialogues with hundreds of the most innovative movers and shakers on the planet More hours

    Original URL path: http://www.gentleaction.org/ (2016-04-23)
    Open archived version from archive


  • Gentle Action
    and its Implications for Policy Planning World Future Council Best and Worst Policies PDF file 184 Kb World Future Council Living Economies PDF file 165 Kb Buy the book Gentle Action by F David Peat Pari Center for New Learning F David Peat Home Gentle Action Blog Library Social and economic limits of the current economic paradigm Ubuntu Declaration for a Just and Sustainable World Economy Gentle Action in Middlesbrough

    Original URL path: http://www.gentleaction.org/library/index.php (2016-04-23)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Gentle Action
    is lost This happens more on steeper slopes It is to address this problem that Mr Phiri Maseko now in his seventies has devoted his life He has done this by developing many examples on his own small farm as well as training many others in his methods The Phiri family lives on a 3 hectare plot in Runde communal area Zvishavane in Zimbabwe This area is dry and prone to droughts it has an average annual rainfall of 570 mm Soils Phiri s plot is located on the slope of a hill and faces north north east At the top of the hill is a bare rock outcrop immediately below which is the homestead The thin grey soils are predominantly sand Further down the slope through the yard and across the road into the cropping area the soils become deeper darker and less stony Their clay content increases especially towards the wetland in the north of the property The wetland experiences seasonal waterlogging and is the source of a stream The ruware One of the most important resources one that many would see as a disadvantage is the large granite dome or ruware above the plot In an uncontrolled situation this rock could cause severe erosion by channelling a lot of water onto the land below it where the Phiri family live and farm Instead however the rock provides the main source of water for the trees crops and household Tiers of stonewall terraces catch and direct the flow of water so that it can sink into the soil and replenish the underground store The terraces trap grass seeds and create swathes of protective vegetation Silt traps ensure that the terraces do not get choked with sand Most of the water is then channelled into a seasonal unsealed reservoir to encourage efficient infiltration of water into the soil rather than storing it on the surface Some of the water can be siphoned into a storage tank made from bricks and plaster Phiri knows that if a season is good enough to fill the reservoir three times then it will have sunk enough water underground to last for two years Harvesting water at the top of the slope recharges the groundwater so that crops trees and natural vegetation will have moisture available to them in the soil 2 The Silent Witness I d like to thank Justine Toms for this story of a colleague Tom Greenaway who moved to her home town Ukiah in California to work at New Dimensions radio Tom used to attend the weekly city council meetings not to ask questions or even protest but just to sit quietly and witness what was taking place Of course when sensitive issues were being discussed sometimes the hall would be filled with people but after that item on the agenda had been discussed the hall would empty leaving only Tom Some years later Tom went into semi retirement and moved to Tennessee At his going away party a member

    Original URL path: http://www.gentleaction.org/cases/index.php (2016-04-23)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Gentle Action
    the same way as other major technological transformations were accommodated into the working of society It will happen by some mix of public and private actors working together in the spirit of enlightened self interest A practical and pragmatic approach one that must have characterized the era which led to regularizing international postal routes international air travel international telecommunications banking the railroads and of course the automobile Sustainable development is a national and international goal Information and communications technologies are energy saving capital saving and labor saving It is these three factors are at the heart of and help to make the networked economy so valuable and productive This proposal acknowledges the importance of sustainable development and will continually seek to demonstrate ways in which is can easily be one of the outcomes of the networked economy Ideally new ways of governing will be developed in a thoughtful and deliberative way with the intent to maximize benefits for all Or new structures and ways of behaving can happen after some crisis has taken place forcing officials to move quickly viz an earthquake leads to a tightening of building standards Good governance anticipates a range of possible developments and puts in place ways of behaving before a crisis takes place Here public policy is aimed at anticipating some of the possible probable as well as some of the unintended consequences of governance challenges related to the new networked economy The networked economy is a shorthand expression a way of describing an amalgam of new technologies and new ways of doing business Much is in place Much more needs to be done It is say 1914 and the automobile is for real Waiting to be developed and waiting too for ways in which development could take place was the following car insurance traffic police fuel distribution systems and service stations standardized ways of licensing drivers and automobiles driver education highway design and development national road systems the notion of access to individual dwellings driveways and curb cuts Waiting to be developed in the networked economy are ways of identifying those who are active on the information highway Do we need a licensing or identification system to better govern the traffic flows and provide sanctions for those who commit crimes of whatever sort Will yesterday s laws apply be enforceable tomorrow What about intellectual property and the downloading of software in whatever form music graphics or video Or is the notion of intellectual property yesterday s story in the networked economy Intellectual property law which includes patents and copyrights is the fastest growing segment among American Bar Association members Last year it grew 9 percent to occupy 19 000 lawyers Is this a good thing or a bad thing Will the technology make information so easy to download and share that new pricing and compensation mechanisms will be needed if we are to compensate those who create such software Economics can be defined as the allocation of scarce resources among competing uses Scarcity is key In the hardware economy if person A has a ton of steel then person B can t have access at the same time The same holds true for a bushel of wheat or copper or rail cars etc In the software economy person A can have a piece of software program music movie video game etc AND person B can also have the very same product Both can use and enjoy the product Hence the term information wants to be shared What happens to scarcity in the new paradigm Scarcity has to be enforced It is not inherent in the non sharability which is a function of an economy based on tangibles The ability to copy and reproduce the very same product and the existence of global networks where information moves in an instant fundamentally changes the world of economics The development of increasingly sophisticated networks has made it far easier for criminals to operate anywhere in the world The growth of complex transactions via the Net provide more and more opportunities for international cyber crime which seems to be on an ever increasing growth trajectory Interpol has a long and distinguished reputation In 1998 it celebrated 75 years of international police cooperation Can it meet the challenges of the networked economy or need there be created a specific global police instrument to challenge crime and criminal activities in the networked economy Cyber traffic enforcement and catching criminals in cyberspace will become increasingly important Some of the numbers associated with network related fraud indicate that we had better be fully prepared for a fully networked economy To take one example Canada last year saw 4 billion in telemarketing fraud more than 3 billion from stock market fraud 650 million from cellular phone fraud 127 million from credit card fraud The old days of a culture of trust based on seeing colleagues on a day to day basis is no more with global networks the tendency to take at the expense of others is heightened since the crime is often seen as victimless But to what extent does enforcement abridge privacy Consider the recent controversy over the US FBI s system of Internet wire tap code named Carnivore It is a personal computer designed to act as a wire tap by sifting through all messages going through a particular ISP Although used in less than 100 cases the broadness of the search and the fact that is resides on the location of the ISP with an FBI agent changing the hard disk daily raises questions of whether this particular form of wire tap is too broad sort of a fishing expedition Answers the FBI not at all There is nothing malicious or mysterious about the new device This is an effort on the FBI s part to keep pace with changes in technology to maintain our ability to lawfully intercept everything as long as there is court authorization The list of topics where governance is at issue might broadly

    Original URL path: http://www.gentleaction.org/library/paper6.php (2016-04-23)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Gentle Action
    blown out of the drains by the force of rapidly rising water and then a few minutes later water gushing through both his front and back doors When the local council seemed slow to take action in terms of clean up testing for contamination in the drinking water prevention of further flooding a few neighbors got together and demanded that their elected representatives listen to them Gordon and Claire were amongst the first activists A series of flood meetings were called at which the council dismissed the flooding as a freak happening a one off even though the residents produced evidence from the environment agency that showed the houses had been built on a flood plain and had had problems for over forty years The problem was exacerbated by inadequate drains the lack of drainage in a nearby park and new houses being built in the area putting even more stress on an already over burdened and outdated drainage system Our problem was said Gordon that at these meetings we were not a cohesive group just a few individuals who were easy to ignore Then in October 2001 Gordon decided that he wanted to take David Peat s course New Science New Paradigms in the village of Pari in Italy Gordon and Claire were struck by the order and cleanliness of the village In Middlesbrough they lived in a row of houses located between two main roads As Gordon said While Pari is an island surrounded by green we are in a sea of roads The couple noticed that house keys were left in the doors and people gathered in the square to talk Pari was a place where everyone knew each other I felt ashamed said Gordon when I think our block is only half the size of Pari yet we didn t even know each other s names What hit me most and changed the way I felt about my hometown was when David showed us a video of Pari s Sagra the annual autumn festival We could see the way that people had worked together Little did I know but my wife was having thoughts about how to get our flood message across and also tackle other problems Claire just said Let s get to know others in our block and start a formal group of some kind This way we can get around councilor apathy and other issues We talked till late into the night One thing that struck us was that we had made social connections with others at the course within the short period of a week So we thought perhaps the same thing could be done in our own area at home that perhaps within a short time we could band together and form a group Looking back to 2000 before Pari I think it was implicit in all of us to bond together after Mother Nature had paid us an unwelcome visit However Pari helped to unfold that thought in Claire s

    Original URL path: http://www.gentleaction.org/library/paper1.php (2016-04-23)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Gentle Action
    While a layperson may wish to rush in an help a professional will suspend immediate response in order to make a careful assessment of the whole situation and determine how to use resources most effectively Likewise doctors and paramedics made a visual examination of the wounded before carefully touching and then determining what medical action should be taken The nature of this creative suspension is related to other approaches and techniques whereby unexamined assumptions and rigidities are brought into conscious awareness For example Sigmund Freud s notion of non judgmental listening as well as various meditative practices Artists composers scientists and other creative people often describe how their work unfolds from a form of creative listening These acts of listening and watchfulness have the effect of dissolving rigidities and rendering a system more flexible Of course the lights will begin to flash and the alarm bells ring Like Pavlov s dog an organization is conditioned to react and respond But what if it does nothing but it a very watchful way and this applies not only to organizations but to individuals as well The first stage will be one of panic and chaos a flow of commands and information All of this is not being generated by any external threat but through the internal structure of the organization itself By remaining sensitive to what it going on it may be possible to become aware of the whole nature of the organization of its values the way its information flows its internal relationships dynamics and in particular its fixed and inflexible responses the organizational neuroses and psychoses if you like Arthur Koestler suggested that a scientific revolution is born out of the chaos as a paradigm breaks down It is possible that something new and more flexible could be born out of the break down of fixed patterns in an organization policy group or individual Through a very active watchfulness it may be possible to detect its unexamined presuppositions fixed values and conditioned responses and in this way allow them to dissolve by no longer giving energy to support them The idea would be to permit the full human potential for creativity within each individual to flower it would enable people to relate together in a more harmonious way and human needs and values to be acknowledged In this fashion the organization or group dies and is reborn In its new form it becomes at least as flexible and sensitive as the situation it faces Now using science human creativity and the art of working with complex systems it may be possible to perceive a complex system correctly and model it within the organization This new understanding would be the basis for a novel sort of action one that harmonizes with nature and society that does not desire to dominate and control and but seeks balance and good order and is based on respect for nature and society Gentle Action explores images of new organizations and institutions that would be able to sustain this watchfulness In place of relatively mechanical hierarchical and rule bound organizations there would exist something more organic in nature In place of relatively mechanical hierarchical and rule bound organizations there would exist something more organic in nature By way of illustrate one could draw upon ideas and concepts in systems theory Prigogine s dissipative structures cooperative and coherent structures in biology neural networks quantum interconnectedness and non locality In such a way organizations will be able to reach a condition in which they are as sensitive subtle and as intelligent as the systems and situations that surround them New Organizations New Dynamics With this increased flexibility organizations will now be able to internalize and model the complex dynamics of the systems that surround them Rather than seeking to predict and control they will now be able to enter the flux of change and engage in those actions that are appropriate to each new situation Successful organizations of the future will have more open and organic structures Their systems of communication will be closer to those of neural nets than to fixed telephone networks They will draw naturally upon the creativity of their employees and in turn employees will be self directed and satisfied by the exercise of their natural creativity and initiative within a caring environment But this does not mean that organizations will abandon leaders and managers for people with flair and the ability to make rapid decisions inspire confidence and exercise knowledge intuition and creativity will always be needed Rather the dominant stance artificially enhanced status and negativity associated with the notion of authority will change New forms of leadership will respect the initiative and autonomy of others so that each person brings their best abilities to a particular task In an emergency for example a natural leader will often emerge yet as soon as the crisis is over that person will go back to carrying out their former tasks The futurist Robert Theobald referred to this as sapiential authority Reference to traditional and indigenous societies shows how leaders are elected in response to specific tasks and crises Their authority does not arise by virtue of a particular fixed position that could be filled by a cipher Rather individuals are chosen to give leadership during a particular emergency or in order to carry out a given mission and their authority arises from the confidence that is placed in them by the group In a similar way leaders will always be called upon in the new organizations and as the particular challenge of a given situation changes so too the internal structure of the organization will transform and particular individuals will be free to adopt new roles Enhanced and more effective communications will take place in these new organizations There is currently a great interest in what has been called the Dialogue Process sometimes associated with the name of David Bohm The idea of a learning organization and of creative learning has been proposed by a variety of experts including Peter Senge One could also draw upon the Native American process of arrival at consensus through the flow of active meaning around the traditional circle To take this particular example a flow of meaning differs in its inherent dynamics from the conventional approach in which formal agreement is reached through discussion and argument For rather than a fixed decision being drawn up and circulated at the end of a meeting each person leaves the discussion knowing what he or she must do even if circumstances should happen to change in the meantime New organizations will therefore place their emphasis upon flexibility creativity intelligence and the ability to meet an unending challenge of change Gentle Action I have adopted the term Gentle Action for the new types of activities and actions that can be taken by an organization that is sensitive to the dynamics of its surrounding environment It is a form of minimal and highly intelligent activity that arises out of the very nature of the system under investigation Actions and reactions that proceed from conventional organizations plans and policies tend to be relatively mechanical in nature and are usually directed towards what is perceived and often in a highly limited way as the source of the problem Moreover the greater the effect required the stronger would be the action that is imposed By contrast gentle action is subtle in nature so that a minimal intervention intelligently made can result in a major change or transformation The reason is that such action makes use of the dynamics of the whole system in question This could be compared to the way in which a proponent of the Japanese Martial Arts makes use of an opponent s strength to defeat him Rather than using violence or dissipating energy the Martial Arts expert directs small movements and leverage in order to focus the opponent s own momentum and energy in a new direction In a similar fashion gentle action acts in a highly intelligent and sensitive way to guide and refocus the energies and the dynamics of the system in question Another image of gentle action would be the minimal movements made by a person in the sea in order to remain afloat Floating occurs not through the expenditure of energy or violent movements but rather by remaining aware and sensitive to the movement of the sea and the position of one s own body and thus by making tiny movements of the arms legs and hands the body can preserve its orientation Surfing and skiing can probably be thought of in this way Action in Action A number of examples of this sort of action can be given New Gourna During the first half of the twentieth century Egypt normally imported concrete frame housing from Europe However the architect Hassan Fathy pointed out that this was not only a costly process for the rural poor but did not fit well into the cultural fabric of the Middle East His solution was to return to an ancient tradition and build houses mosques and public buildings out of mud and straw Despite objections that houses would be washed away in the spring rains Fathy build the peasant village of New Gourna Village near Luxor Not only did he demonstrate the possibility of cheap housing for the poor but also trained villagers in the techniques for build their own houses He later expressed his ideas in the book Architecture for the Poor An experiment in rural Egypt Vietnam A group of Italian business people discovered that the best way to help the street children in Vietnam was not through grants or charity but to give them the skills to open up their own small business for example repairing bicycles A School or a Well A group of business people in England wished to encourage education in an African community Their natural conclusion was to donate funds to build a school However the community told them they had no need for a school building children could sit under a tree and learn The real issue was the lack of a well The children had to walk a considerable distance to collect water for the community By donating money to build a well the children would now have free time to sit and learn Heifer International Not a Cup but a Cow Dan West was a relief worker during the Spanish Civil war giving out milk to refugees The idea struck him that it would make more sense to provide people with a cow rather than handing out of cup of milk In this way Heifer International was born Today the organization donates livestock to poor areas in 47 countries also providing training in the care and upkeep of animals In turn the offspring of these animals are passed on to other members of the village Gaviotas In the early 1970s a group of Columbians scientists street children and peasants dissatisfied with the political turmoil and urban decay decided to create a new community it what was considered uninhabitable pampas Their idea was to create a totally sustainable community One of the prime movers in creating the community was Paolo Lugari who said they wanted to do something for the third world by the third world When you import solutions from the First World you also import your problems He said that they wanted a chance to plan their own tropical civilization from the ground up rather than importing models and technology from the Northern countries as the Peace cord wants to teach everybody Thanks to the cooperation of a number of universities who sent out their students many ingenious low tech devices were created For example the power generated by the children s swings and teeter totters for example was used to power water pumps The community also planted many trees so that the surrounding barren land was gradually converted into a forest Today the community is totally energy independent They farm organically and use wind solar power and a wood power turbine Every family enjoys free housing community meals and schooling There are no weapons no police and no jail There is no mayor The United Nations named the village a model of sustainable development Grameen Bank One day Mohammed Yunus an economist in Bangladesh spoke to a woman making bamboo stools in a market She explained that she had to buy the materials from a middle man and then sell back the finished stools to him Her profit for a day s work was two cents Yunus asked one of his students to walk around the town and find out how many other women were in the same position She returned with a list of containing 42 names With only 27 all these women could be made independent Yunus handed over the money and asked his student to distribute it On the following day Yunus went to a branch of the Janta bank a Bangladeshi government bank to explore the possibility of the bank giving very small loans to poor people to help them work independently At this the bank manager began to laugh at the impossibility of such an absurd idea The amounts of the loans involved would not even cover the costs of filling out the loan documents what is more most of those people would be illiterate and incapable of filling out the forms and signing their name Instead Yunus created his own Gameen bank that would deal in microcredit small loans given generally to women who used them to buy things to sell at the market such as sewing needles and thread to become tailors and seamstresses chicks to grow for meat and eggs to sell i e agricultural loans The initial loans were very small amounts of under 100 As the women paid back the loans they allowed more women to borrow and start businesses Women were chosen since they were better credit risks than men in these cultures and because they spend their money for better food clothing and education for their children rather than on imported goods In this way money stayed within the village which began to prosper Today Yunus s scheme of microcredits has been adopted in many countries He was event invited by the US government to set up a microcredit system in Arkansas Native American talking Circle Non natives often wonder how decisions are made within an Indigenous community In a talking circle a pipe or feather may be passed around allowing each person to speak in turn What is discussed are not so much plans or proposals but people feelings memories ancient stories At first sight this appears puzzling until one realizes that a field of meaning is being created which is being owned by the whole group rather than by the particular individuals who speak In one sense their remarks are personal in another they are an expression of the rich dynamics of the group At the end no decision is made and no plan agreed upon but somehow each person knows what to do Action arises out of the group as a whole not through the instructions of an elected leader Although for certain tasks a leader may be appointed this authority always exists as an expression of the group and will therefore l vanish once the task has ended If a ceremony is to be held a building constructed the non Native will ask the hour when this will happen When the time is right will be the answer Again the right time appears to be an inner sense Creative suspension The King s Cross project At first sight the Kings Cross project looks like the epitome of ungentle action King s Cross Station is designated as the British terminal for European rail traffic the station at Charing Cross is only a temporary solution This led a major European Union regeneration project for the surrounding area a project in which other vested interests were represented such as English Heritage P O and Railtrack These extensive plans were drawn up without any consultation at the local level It did not take into account that the King s Cross area is part of the borough of Camden Town in essence a village within a city a very close knit community dating back for centuries and once home to Charles Dickens and the Bloomsbury Group In addition to housing many small traders who live and work in the area it was also the residence of many of Britain s leading writers artists and actors The outcry against the development project was highly vocal At first it involved the traditional approaches of protest and confrontation but in the end the promoters of the project were forced to stop and begin to listen to the many voices of the local community It was at this point of creative suspension that the project managers realized that they could not proceed with development in its current form Only by working directly with the community and understanding the complexity of the social structure were they able to come up with and new a creative solution Changing hospital attitudes Therese Schroder Sheker is a professional musician a harpist who had worked with the dying in Denver Colorado using a system of musical modes inspired by the practices at Cluny 10 C When she arrived at St Patrick s hospital in Missoula Montana she discovered that doctors were never present at a death and the hospital suggested the body should be removed and the bed made ready for the next patient within 30 mins By working in a gentle way and training others she was able to give people an easeful death even to the point of being removed from painkillers Over time she noticed that the doctors began to attend the deaths of their patients and allowed the relations to stay with the body for an hour or so Now she has radically changed

    Original URL path: http://www.gentleaction.org/library/paper2.php (2016-04-23)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Gentle Action
    curious correlation that exists between quantum systems even when they are separated by large distances Bell s correlations cannot be explained by appeal to any mechanical interaction Quantum wholeness clearly demonstrates a limit to physical analysis and to the notion that systems can always be broken down into interacting parts Indeed the very notion of what has been called independent elements of reality is entirely incompatible with quantum theory It could be argued that quantum theory only applies at the atomic level of things and has no relevance to questions of ecology and social behavior The essential point is however that the very assumptions of classical physics which lead to our reductionistic and fragmentary attitudes has now be shown to be inconsistent for at its smallest level matter is no longer analyzable in classical terms Quantum theory shows that there are other more holistic ways of thinking about nature But there is no need to go to the very small to discover this A whole new series of new studies variously called open systems far from equilibrium thermodynamics catastrophe theory chaos theory and fractals are all producing dramatically different metaphors These different studies can be grouped under the heading of non linear and open systems They encompass everything from rivers weather and electrical amplifiers to economics insect populations and the electrical activity of the human brain Non linear systems are the rule rather than the exception in nature and their behavior is rich and varied To begin with breaking down a non linear system into its component parts is strictly limited This is well illustrated by the example of a vortex in a river A vortex or whirlpool is remarkably stable it stays in one place over a long period of time and is resistant to change disturb the water by throwing in a stone and the vortex quickly resumes its previous shape It is very like one of those independent bodies of Newtonian science yet clearly it has no existence apart from the river A vortex persists by virtue of the water that flows through it The river is not made up of the vortex wavelets and other features as a machine is made out of parts rather the vortex is born out of the flow of the river there is no point where the river ends and the vortex begins Non linear systems boast even more remarkable features called solitons that behave just like Newtonian bodies moving through space carrying energy and even colliding Yet in all cases they are expressions of the movement of the overall system Certainly a system may be analyzed and understood in terms of these quasi independent parts This may work for a certain range of behavior and enable predictions to be made But push the system a little further and it reaches a bifurcation point where the parts suddenly disappear and the whole system jumps into some new and totally different mode of behavior Non linear systems have a wide range of possible behaviors these stretch from extreme resistance to change stable oscillations complex dynamics with the infinite detail within detail of a fractal to chaos In fact something as delicate as the flutter of a butterfly s wings can flip a non linear system from order into chaos Working on past experience may not always be a good guide to future behavior for things can suddenly change in unpredictable ways While a system is remarkable stable to certain external changes it may well be exceptionally sensitive to others so that the very slightest change in one of them produces dramatic and unpredictable results But this means that interfering with one part of a non linear system may produce a violent and unexpected change in some other distant part Weather economics population dynamics ecology and society itself all come within the umbrella of non linear systems and this means that all scientific analysis and the creation of theoretical models must be seriously qualified A computer model of a system may work in a certain region but change the external conditions ever so slightly and the whole thing can break down Dealing with a non linear system becomes as much an art as a science Systems in nature may be resistant to certain forms of intervention rapidly repairing themselves yet vulnerable to others A given solution may work in one instance yet produce drastic and unforeseen consequences in another Nature is not a machine it is complex subtle and can be incredibly sensitive to certain changes Nevertheless we continue to abuse our planet and assume that any problem we create can be patched up by an appropriate solution Institutions and politicians have a similar faith when it comes to economics social policies and international conflict Our boundless optimism becomes pathological for it is out of touch with reality and does not take into account everything we have learned about the complexity sensitivity and subtlety of life itself The problem lies in our inadequate perception of the world and our lack of any proper relationship to nature This has become entrenched in our institutions social values and policies The world is an organic living thing flexible and ever changing yet the institutions we have created to deal with it are rigid and insensitive Their policies are reactive and persist long after the context in which they were created has changed Hierarchical organizations having limited lines of communication and inflexible structures are supposed to deal with a rich and complex world How is it possible for any policy to meet the challenges of a system that is far more subtle and varied than the institution that attempts to control it such intervention is doomed to failure Science and technology is not going to save the world neither are computer models and policy studies What is needed is something radically different that is at least as subtle as the issues and natural systems we face Is their a way out How can we deal with systems

    Original URL path: http://www.gentleaction.org/library/paper3.php (2016-04-23)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Gentle Action
    be the result of external factors for an apparently negligible effect may given time swamp the behavior of the system iii Exogenous or Endogenous Change When a system steered by a particular policy undergoes a sudden dramatic change one normally looks for some external cause Has something changed in its environment has some unforeseen demand surfaced or is it the result of the development of a new technology But what if this major fluctuation or qualitative change has nothing to do with external circumstances but is endogenous the result of purely internal dynamics A small regular periodic internal fluctuation can suddenly swamp the system and the iteration of an output into the next cycle will in time result in qualitatively new behavior It is of obvious importance to be able to distinguish endogenous from exogenous factors iv Chaotic behavior Systems sometimes enter regions of highly erratic and chaotic behavior In such cases it becomes impossible to predict the future behavior of the system even when based on its entire past history From moment to moment the system jumps violently in its behavior moreover it may be infinitely sensitive to any external change of fluctuation But is a chaotic system totally devoid of order A chaotic system appears totally unpredictable in its behavior moreover its behavior may be impervious to corrective measures But scientists are now finding that what is called deterministic chaos exhibits certain regularities For example erratic swings while entirely unpredictable may nevertheless be confined to a particular limited region called a chaotic or strange attractor So while the moment to moment behavior of the system is unpredictable uncovering the geometry of the strange attractors give information about the overall range of behavior It is also a matter of debate as to whether a chaotic system should be spoken of as totally devoid of any order or as exhibiting a highly complex and subtle order Moreover such systems may also exhibit intermittency periods of simple order which emerge again and again out of chaos When faced with the alternation of order and chaos one may ask Does this represent a break down of good order a failure of policy Or is the order itself a temporary breakdown of a more general chaos or infinite complexity of behavior That there can be order within chance can be seen in the following way Suppose someone has tossed ten heads in a row Most people would bet that the next throw must be tails But knowing that the system is truly random indicates that there is a 50 50 chance that the next throw will be heads In this way an experienced gambler will on the average win over a gullible opponent In a similar fashion knowing the range of chaotic behavior enables one to hedge policy bets and come out marginally ahead over a long period of time v Self similarity Chaotic systems have much in common with fractals indeed their strange attractors have a fractal structure Likewise there may be detailed fractal patterns in their dynamics that repeat at different scales of time Having knowledge of such patterns would make it possible to on the average make better micropredictions I e one computer analysis of stock market data suggests that there are self similar patterns at 14 5 and 2 yr periods and in 5 month periods and that the same patterns may be present within each day vi Feedforward Where two or more products compete for a given market a process of feedforward takes place The effect of a tiny initial fluctuation may cause one particular product to eventually dominate the market An example of this is the competition between VHS and Betamax videocassettes V Examples The manifestation of non linear effects can be discovered in a wide variety of examples from sociology population dynamics economics and ecology In each case mathematical models can be built that have the potential for a wide range of behavior from stability gradual growth persistent oscillations self organization rigidity to change infinite sensitivity to externalities all the way to chaotic and unpredictable swings Of course mathematical models are far from the real world but the possibility that a well behaved system could at some point engage in a radically different and uncontrollable form of behavior gives food for thought Moreover as more and more examples are found in the real world of qualitative changes in behavior of chaos sensitivity or rigidity it becomes important to take them into account wherever policies are being made and the implications of actions contemplated i Ecology Take an obvious example where non linear effects occur There has been much debate about the greenhouse effect Suppose therefore we ask what will be the effect of increasing carbon dioxide on plant growth The whole question of the effects global warming increased humidity and carbon dioxide on vegetation is a highly complex issue Not only will growth rates change but the whole balance of a region will be modified with some species being favoured over others For example what may be good conditions for the growth of a certain crop may be even better for weeds and predators In turn the effects of these changing vegetation patterns will feed back into the atmosphere both directly in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that is fixed by plant life but also indirectly for as the mixes and yields of different vegetation changes so too will the economics and even the lifestyles of a given region As the economy and social structure of a region changes so too does its energy demands which results in different amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere Moreover there will be a variety of lags in the various feedback loops of such a system so that attempts to control variations in one part of a cycle may have the effect of magnifying another Even the attempt to isolate a single variable in this whole complex system becomes incredibly complex A single variable will

    Original URL path: http://www.gentleaction.org/library/paper4.php (2016-04-23)
    Open archived version from archive



  •