Holistic, network approach to life science needed to solve systemic environmental problems

Biting my tongue.  Biting my tongue.  Biting my tongue~ctm

From Eurekalert

Public Release: 30-Nov-2018

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Achieving a sustainable world will require a paradigm shift in the way we approach life sciences and ecology, according to a new book cowritten by IIASA researcher Brian Fath, with a focus on a holistic, multi-model view of life and the environment.

‘Life’ is not best viewed as a property of an organism, but as a property of an integrated system of organisms, ecosystems, and the biosphere. Mainstream approaches to tackling sustainability issues treat life as a singular model, rather than as a system. Fath and coauthor Daniel Fiscus, from the Western Maryland Food Council, argue in Foundations for Sustainability: A Coherent Framework of Life-Environment Relations that this simplistic, reductionist approach is partially responsible for the global environmental problems we currently face.

“Symptoms of environmental degradation – climate disruption, mass species extinctions, nitrogen cycle disruption, ocean acidification, crises with food, energy, and water, and many more – are not improving, and we suggest that this situation directly calls into question the existing science, and its foundational ideas, theories, assumptions, and paradigm,” says Fiscus.

The book aims to challenge the mainstream view, and presents a roadmap for the reform of current thinking, presenting the case for a multi-model view of life on earth. Through describing better basic science and applied science results, Fath and Fiscus hope to increase the understanding of what is needed to achieve a world which is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

In the nine chapters of the book, the authors say that many of the symptoms of the current environmental crisis relate to the prevailing approach, which treats living and environmental systems as if they are machines. Thus, the core idea in science has produced the conditions we see now – the world is running out of fuel and breaking down, like the mechanical system we have treated it to be. By adopting a multi-model, holistic view of life, science can provide leadership so the world can realize better environmental outcomes.

Fath and Fiscus identify the life-environment system and use this as the fundamental idea of their conceptual framework, which integrates the holistic ideas of other scientists taking the systems thinking approach to the environment, with the intention of building a larger movement. They cite examples where the holistic approach has been successful, such as that of the Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics (RARE – capitalinstitute.org/research-alliance-for-regenerative-economics/), which promotes building an economy and financial systems that support sustainability. Case studies such as local food production and community self-reliance show the value of integrated, holistic approaches to engage networks of individuals and enterprises that regenerate human communities and natural systems.

They propose six principles of holistic life science, including that it must be centered on the value of life, balance the holistic and reductionist approaches, and be able to model and understand complex life systems and be able to recommend actions for interacting with those systems. Fath and Fiscus also look at lessons they have learned from their own work in ecological network analysis and systems ecology to develop a framework and system of ideas to ensure a better relationship between humans and the environment.

“Throughout the book is the thread that life is not only organismal but also ecosystemic and biospheric. We are all integrated, such that if one part suffers, all suffer. And yet there are many win-win situations that make life better. We need to start building life-enhancing goals and structures into all aspects of our actions,” says Fath.

The authors are working on ways to make the messages accessible to general public, but say that their book will be most relevant to academics in biology, ecology, environmental science, sustainability, regenerative economics and related fields, as well as those looking to solve socio-ecological problems. The findings within the book are also important for governments and policymakers working towards sustainability.

“Instead of continuing piecemeal analytical approaches that continue to fail and may make matters worse, the holistic approach of the book holds promise, and explains rigorous science and practical applications by which we can reorganize our science, technology and culture… to achieve a human future in which the environment improves as we live,” says Fiscus.

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Reference

Fiscus D & Fath B (2018). Foundations for Sustainability: A Coherent Framework of Life-Environment Relations. Cambridge, Massachusetts, US: Academic Press [pure.iiasa.ac.at/id/eprint/15513/]

 

 

More information

Book webpage – https://www.elsevier.com/books/foundations-for-sustainability/fiscus/978-0-12-811460-5

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72 thoughts on “Holistic, network approach to life science needed to solve systemic environmental problems

    • I’m impressed that anyone read past the title !

      My eyes glazed over when I read “holistic”, “network” and “systemic”.

      PhD writing.

      Piled high and Deep !

  1. “‘Life’ is not best viewed as a property of an organism, but as a property of an integrated system of organisms, ecosystems, and the biosphere.”

    So much for the fundamental God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Another subtle attack on the foundation of our constitution. They never seem to quit in their desire to destroy us.

    • Yes. Just replace “an integrated system of organisms, ecosystems and the biosphere” with “the Global State”.

      • It’s all about permission. I.e. You don’t have permission to do that.

        No matter weather it’s “an integrated system of organisms, ecosystems and the biosphere” or “Global governance”; the outcome will be the same. “No, you can’t do that.” (but we can)

    • Life is best viewed in relation to what the heck we are focusing on. If it’s a human body, then it is best viewed as a property of an organism. If it’s a general definition of what life is, then there is some gray area to be debated, and the definition starts to get fuzzy, once we move away from a specific body.

      The word can be used in a broad sense, a narrow sense, and a metaphorical sense. Consequently, “life” is best qualified in the context of a particular discussion.

      Oh, I just had a brain embolism that threatens my life, but, wait, let’s not treat ME, let’s treat “an integrated system of organisms, ecosystems, and the biosphere”, because “life is not best viewed … yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.”

  2. From the article:

    “Symptoms of environmental degradation – climate disruption, mass species extinctions, nitrogen cycle disruption, ocean acidification, crises with food, energy, and water, and many more – are not improving, and we suggest that this situation directly calls into question the existing science, and its foundational ideas, theories, assumptions, and paradigm,” says Fiscus.

    Ah… another work of fiction. The key to good fiction writing is to have a plot with just enough basis in fact to make the story believable. The authors have some work to do.

    • We’re into climate disruption now but it seems all a bit yesterdays with nitrogen cycle disruption. That sounds all the go but I’ll have to consult the pendulum and crystals on that after the reflexology session.

    • That’s the issue. So many specific issues, such as atmospheric pollution and deforestation are improving, that we are being changed to general review that can is altered essentially continuously.

      While agree, a holistic view does need to be used to prevent bad solutions from being implemented (in example, British importation of Canadian lumber for wood fuel at power plants, which is horrible from every viewpoint except extremely narrow numbers of just the power plant emissions of CO2). However, the way that this is phrased is a bunch of feel-good mumbo jumbo that doesn’t provide a framework for actually solving or even identifying problems.

    • Yea. Climate disruption.
      Since I keep telling my son that words have meaning, I felt the need to re-examine the Webster definition of disruption.

      1 a) to break apart, rupture.
      Yikes! that would be pretty scary. But I really don’t see climate breaking apart or rupturing.
      b) To throw in to disorder.
      I’m not so sure that climate has ever been very orderly, so that must not be it either.
      I could be wrong about an orderly climate. Perhaps I can secure funding to study it.

      2: to interrupt the normal course of unity.
      No. That just doesn’t work either.

      For all of the money these guys get to study the climate, you would think that they could at least
      check a dictionary once in awhile.

      Oh wait.
      Dictionaries are a lost skill set too aren’t they?
      -Sigh-

  3. This looks like a contest to see if one can use the most New Age buzzwords in one paragraph. As most of the terms are at best ill-defined, one cannot really tell is one is doing anything, or judging the results, if any.
    Wanna invest in my venture in voodoo acupuncture?

    • Does anyone remember a “Mission Statement Generator”? It provided a drop-down list of buzzwords and catchphrases to pick from at each step – here a preposition, an adjective, then a noun, now an adverb, and then a verb – and in the end it produced statements that sounded a lot like this. So apparently these guys have assembled a whole book of them!!!

  4. Keep biting your tongue CTM. Life? I see the United Nations just announced that the life of mankind is in jeopardy due to global warming, if you don’t send them money or something. Here’s the kicker: The United Nations also just announced they detected (watched?) as 23 million Nigerian girls were the victims of forced child marriage. Makes you wonder exactly what the United Nations does on a daily basis, huh?

  5. This could result in development of new “ecosystem/biosphere models” that will allow bureaucratizes to do all sorts of mischief.

      • Maybe ALL of the new topics listed today- this and all above on the home page?
        My eyes opened wide and my jaw dropped
        and my BP is still rising!
        love the way these dweebs suggest they will try and make it accessible for the “plebs” but its aimed at upper level twits really.
        Id be taking em for a month on a working farm for a dose of REAL interlinked holisitic systems
        starting with- you don’t work-you don’t eat!

  6. ‘Life’ is not best viewed as a property of an organism, but as a property of an integrated system of organisms, ecosystems, and the biosphere.

    Yet another rehash of monism versus pluralism. Is there anything new under the sun?

    • They just can’t use the common words nature, reality or existence for their “integrated system of organisms…” or there wouldn’t have been as much chance to obfuscate

    • From each according to their ability, to each according to their need…

      Where is Mr. Galt when you need him?

  7. “The authors are working on ways to make the messages accessible to general public.”
    A good start would be to learn to write English.

  8. Perhaps the “SYSTEM” just needs some green tea, and a spa treatment, then a good weekend away from the kids.

  9. http://capitalinstitute.org/research-alliance-for-regenerative-economics/
    Brian D. Fath, Ph.D is also Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria – Bertrand Russells outfit.
    There a quoted book : The New Science of Sustainability: Building a Foundation for Great Change (2008)
    It that by any chance the “great change” Germany is pursuing?
    No trace anywhere there of the concept of relative potential population density, technology development, energy density, just “sustainability” which means population reduction.
    “Holistic” sustainability, something catchy – I wonder how Macron would phrase that in French?

    • The book was funded by a grant from the Town Creek Foundation, whose mission is “to provide resources to help catalyze, support, and accelerate progressive changes in environmental policy and practice within the State of Maryland.”

  10. “Fath and Fiscus hope to increase the understanding of what is needed to achieve a world which is both environmentally and economically sustainable.”
    In my modest opinion this will be a stagnant world, of course controlled by the few knowledgable.

  11. That reads like the output from a buzzwords generator. It is just possible that the book is better, but I doubt it.

  12. Mainstream Approaches and Relationships between Xeno-speciation, Internationally through Systems Management

    or MARXISM

    for short

  13. This is a last ditch attempt of the old paradigm that is giving Macron et. al so little sleep. The new paradigm taking shape with China, Russia, India, USA has nothing to do with their pathetic “holistic”-than-thou signaling. French citizens have now felt firsthand what holisitc sustainability really means.

  14. Thanks for the reference Charles, oddly enough I was reading up on General Systems Theory the other day.

    It seems that Nirvana can be reached by more people if we switch “.. from an extractive to a regenerative economy based on the principles of caring and sacredness, cooperation, regeneration, deep democracy and social and ecological well-being.”

    https://entitleblog.org/2018/12/04/book-review-total-transition-the-human-side-of-the-renewable-energy-revolution/

  15. “life is not best viewed as a property of an organism…” Seriously?! This sounds very much like an attempt to justify euthanasia and genocide for the greater good of Gaia. The authors seem to be substituting “the biosphere” for the state and restating fascist theory. Pol Pot’s killing fields were not far down this logic chain.

  16. The idea that life is a machine, while not new, seems now viewed as a function of specialization with a lack of understanding of the actual whole whether it be the individual or the ecosystem. Interconnections have long been the among the understandings of ecological theory, but useful analogies between these and machines, don’t make them the same.

    There may be machines that combine complicated physical and chemical systems to produce similar outcomes, but it seems to me that the danger lies, as often before, to assume more than exists. We may have had a loss in education for the appreciation of flesh with the environmental movement, majors in non-biological (and some biological and intermediates) fields receiving inadequate course work, and especially field work, both into individuals and ecosystems, moving into the virtual realm.

    What they refer to is what happened decades ago moving into more “ecosystem” approaches to solve problems, now often solutions looking for them. AAAS is way behind and E. O. Wilson was there. Real sustainability was not even new long before the environmental movement.

    I cite as evidence what I posted before out of the most recent “federal” climate analysis—-
    “……..ocean ecosystems are becoming increasingly NOVEL” (CAPS MINE).
    Sorry fellows, they have always been novel, among other more accurate appellations. Like prone to produce seasickness, and a search for God. They may think they have already found such.

  17. Since the set of Carbon Based Life Forms represent all life as we know it, I often like to replace the word ‘life’ with ‘carbon based life forms’ in a quote to see how it affects the intent of the author. It doesn’t always work, but it’s often revealing. For example:

    “Throughout the book is the thread that [Carbon Based Life Forms] are not only organismal but also ecosystemic and biospheric. We are all integrated, such that if one part suffers, all suffer. And yet there are many win-win situations that make [Carbon Based Life Forms] better. We need to start building [Carbon Based Life Forms]-enhancing goals and structures into all aspects of our actions,” says Fath.

    Knowing that all carbon based life forms participate in the Carbon Cycle of Life, and that Carbon Dioxide is the only singular throttle in the carbon cycle (i.e. is the base of the food chain) then we can readily deduce that increasing current levels of atmospheric CO2 will help all carbon based life forms, … er life. Is that what the author intended?

  18. Lysenkoism version two, here we come. Nicely wrapped up in a decorative fusillade of jargon and heart warming treacle. I hope democrats adopt a lot of this language in the next US federal election. My observation is that voters sniff out nonsense like this much faster than the media or our educational institutions.

  19. “They cite examples where the holistic approach has been successful, such as that of the Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics (RARE – capitalinstitute.org/research-alliance-for-regenerative-economics/)”.

    Does anybody know how exactly this has been successful?

    “The authors are working on ways to make the messages accessible to general public”. Translate the messages to English, maybe?

  20. “climate disruption, mass species extinctions, nitrogen cycle disruption, ocean acidification, crises with food, energy, and water, and many more”

    I lost interest at that point. Mass species extinctions, nitrogen cycle disruptions, ocean “less akaline”, etc have occurred all through the history of the planet. Gaia is apparently constantly trying to commit suicide. Who are we to try and argue with the blessed Gaia?

    • It makes you wonder how life ever survived on the planet before these feather-brained clowns arrived.
      I just wish there was somewhere out of the way we could let them actually try and sustain themselves without the need to involve everyone else in moderating their multiple stupidities.

      • Moderately East of Cross Anglia: “I just wish there were somewhere….” That was my thought too, and the somewheres I had in mind were Yemen, Venezuela, maybe Nigeria. Their “new paradigm” “holistic” “if one suffers, all suffer” approach would be so welcome. People who are hungry would just eat this book up.

  21. A holistic, network approach to life science? Maybe a scientific approach to life science should be tried first. You know – the approach where five centuries of experience tells us that it actually works.

    • I fear we are fast approaching the societal rot that has resulted in many civilizations failing. Too many people think food products are made by waving a magic wand and materializing meat, vegetables, fruit, etc.

      What is the holistic approach to slaughtering a cow, pig, or chicken? What is holistic about using a hoe to slay every grass and weed in the field of grain? What is holistic about killing everything (deer, racoons, etc.) that try to eat your crop before you harvest it?

      Too many of these people have never lived poor on a farm and tried subsistence living. Too many of these people have lived in cities all of their lives and have no knowledge about the interactions between animals in the wild, including humans. For all of our science and technological marvels humans are really not very far removed from living hand to mouth. Too bad this isn’t thought about more!

  22. I think Gaia, permaculture and Biodynamics predate such a synthesis by decades to a century. Whether you agree with either is open to discussion, but there is nothing novel here, except in academia where nothing synthesised outside of tenured positions counts!

  23. I is a great opportunity to train the deer, squirrels, ground hogs, raccoons and skunks to be a responsible member of this holistic network approach ecosystem.

  24. “Biting my tongue. Biting my tongue. Biting my tongue~ctm”

    Would that be considered eating meat? Cant have any of that.

  25. You mean that as our models demonstrate that any simplistic mechanism for the complex planetary climate regulation system is no more adequate than a specified genome is without all the functional epigenetic controls, we are now beckoned to impatiently abandon all the hard work of step-wise verification that has brought us thus far (during a fossil fueled prosperity, by the way) and skip past that squishy post-modern relativism right to incantation? I think I’ll just collect my participation trophy and go home.

  26. I used to work in an academic department that included “systems engineering”. They produced some very useful research, applied systems analysis at its best. Made a significant difference, eg sediment transport patterns resulting for dredging, cause of incidents involving shipping in the Great Barrier Reef area. The latter identified that a ship was 35 times more likely to be involved in an incident if a pilot was on board. Thank goodness for GPS. Looks like another useful discipline has been taken over by idiots.

  27. A publication that will “ sink with the sad finality of an outboard motor spark plug accidentally dropped overboard two miles at sea
    [Willis E.; WUWT – the froth of the fourth]

  28. We treat the environment as if it were a machine, and lo and behold it breaks down like a machine.
    –this is not a very convincing argument for the idea that the environment is not a machine.
    It is a good argument that the environment is machine-like, whether we like that or not.

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