Presentation on theme: "Soft Systems: an Interdisciplinary Method Dr Karen Bowler Marine and Coastal Policy Research Group School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences."— Presentation transcript:
1 Soft Systems: an Interdisciplinary Method Dr Karen Bowler Marine and Coastal Policy Research Group School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences
2 The Irish Sea: a socio-ecological system Marine managementSustainability:‘Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generation s to meet their own needs.’ Brundtland 1987Ecosystem wellbeing fundamentalHumans are part of the ecosystem.
3 The Problem – Why is marine conservation failing to deliver?’ EcosystemPRESSURESEnvironmentalSTATECHANGESSocietalDRIVERSRESPONSESIMPACTSon SocietyD-P-S-I-RScience-policy gapBarriers to changeESRC/NERCMultiple disciplines involvedWhich methods?Current approaches to marine sustainability are focused on scientific appraisal of marine ecosystems, sometimes extending to descriptions of human activities and their consequences, yet framed exclusively within the scientific paradigm. These approaches therefore necessarily fail to consider the ultimate societal causes of environmental degradation.
4 Disciplines ‘Disciplinary silos’ INTERDISCIPLINARITY Academia Civil society‘Sage on stage’After Brand, R & Karvonen A, 2007
5 Soft systems Why use soft systems? Current focus – marine science and human activities framed exclusively within the scientific paradigm.These approaches therefore necessarily fail to consider the ultimate, societal, causes of environmental degradation.Advantages:‘messy’ situations‘soft’/multiple problem definitionsContext sensitiveInclude many kinds of informationClarify assumptions, values, purposeCritical system for action (Ulrich, W)
6 Soft systems What is a system? A ‘Holon’ -Greater than sum of parts Structured by its components, interactions and feedbacksPersistent in face of changeWhat are Soft Systems?A ‘thinking tool’, ‘a sense-making approach’ (Checkland P, 1981)A process of enquiry using systems tools and thinking‘holons’ developed to structure debate, compare with real world, consider changesCan be issue-based or task-based (O.R.)Ideally – with multiple stakeholdersIterative learning cycle
7 7-step method – iterative, refined, results of several cycles Ongoing evaluationTake ActionInterpretation ofresultsModel analysesModel developmentScreening -system boundariesprobs/oppsScoping -Explore the contextSTARTStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 7Step 6After Checkland, 1981
9 Problems/Opportunities: A ‘Mess’Marine environmental damage/degradationScientific uncertaintyMultiple legislatory challenges: Marine Protected Areas, shipping, fishing, tourism, conservation,Conflicting interests: high population, high consumption levels, energy demands, economic competitiveness, global linksSustainability – economic? social?Root Definition: Transformation of a non-sustainable Irish Sea into a sustainable Irish Sea?
14 Critical System Critical components identified: Causes: Failures in Legislation, Management, Modelling, Technology useInfluences: Feedback loopsEconomic growth-energy-tradeExternalities-short-termism-OvershootCritical areas for action e. g. Strengthen weakly interacting feedback at long-term interests
15 Wider discussion The Irish Sea itself does not comprise a holon. Scientifically defined ‘ecosystem’Politically dividedStatistical data at national levelSubject to multiple influences from system environmentA sustainable Irish Sea is a long way from reality.
16 ConclusionsSoft systems methods provide a key link in developing our understanding of complex, trans-disciplinary issues. They:Extend understanding to multiple, underlying causes eg advertising, outside usual considerationConstruct a holistic picture of context and interrelationships which influence (non)-sustainabilityAs a learning cycle, could offer much more if practiced on the ground in stakeholder fora.
18 DPSIR and Data Natural Sciences Quantity ‘ WHAT HAPPENS’ PRESSURES Social Sciences‘WHY IT HAPPENS’PRESSURESSTATECHANGESDRIVERSRESPONSESIMPACTSNeeds WantsFeelingsPowerBeliefs,ValuesQuantitySpeedVolumeAreaSize
20 Current basis for marine sustainability ‘…based on sound science’ – as opposed to unsound scienceOceanographyBiologyEcologyFisheriesScienceResourcemanagementConservationof habitats andspeciesChemistry
21 Extended basis for marine sustainability ‘…based on sound science’ – but only as a basis – cultural valuesContext, advertising, global economy,unequal distribution of benefits, trade-offs,advertising, short term benefit v ultimate aims,.Where are we really going?Is it good or bad – beyond scienceOceanographyBiologyEcologyFisheriesScienceResourcemanagementConservationof habitats andspeciesChemistryScientific Basis