“Fixes” that look great and fail better.

A friend in an environmental discussion group proposed his favorite list of hopeful, but quite unproven technology solutions for the energy crisis, making the usual false assumption that the problem is a lack of energy resources. That causes the further error of not considering what consequences the solution would have… if it worked.

There’s a rather interesting “Catch 22” in trusting hopeful but unproven technological fixes. They raise a promise you can’t check out the consequences of. The usual hidden consequence is the problem. Even if they work wonderfully to solve the problem they are targeted to solve, then they expand the economy and multiply all our other problems…

Have you ever thought about that ‘feedback’ issue before? The solutions for economic growth constraints invariably extend or accelerate the growth of the economy and ALL its other multiplying impacts and complications for the environment and society at the same time. You fix one problem and it triggers a torrent of others.

“My theory” for why that’s easy to miss is that people are just not taught how to think about complex systems that behave as wholes, though we rely on them extensively and they’re all around us. It’s not a subject in school. We’re not taught that nature is “alive” (full of things that take care of themselves) and how to watch the way they work. Instead we’re taught that everything is determined by being controlled by something else, and to ignore subjects that can’t be explained that way. Natural systems work by the development of networks of independent but complementary parts, i.e. not a deterministic process at all. As a result our whole culture is missing the basic terminology for it.



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