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There is increasing recognition that the reductionist mindset that is currently dominating society, rooted in unlimited economic growth unperceptive to its social and environmental impact, cannot resolve the converging environmental, social and economic crises we now face. The primary aim of this free course, Understanding the environment: Complexity and chaos, is to encourage the shift away from reductionist and human centred thinking towards a holistic and ecological worldview.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- carry out a series of simulations of population dynamics
- experience the dynamic complexity resulting from the interaction of positive and negative feedback loops over time
- use quantitative data to identify trends and investigate the nature of relationships within a system dynamics model.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Course Outline
- 2 Section 5 Readings – Complexity and chaos
- 3 Section 5 Activities
- 4 Activities
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Understanding the environment: Complexity and chaos
Our cognitive limitations makes it difficult for many of us to perceive the complex and unpredictable dynamics of wicked problems as they evolve over time. Increasingly accessible computer hardware and software is allowing us to directly engage with this complexity and unpredictability so as to allow us to make better decisions. In this free course, you will be exploring the unpredictable nature of dynamic, non-linear systems by simulating several simple population dynamics models using Netlogo — a software tool that can be freely downloaded from . You will then propose your own model describing the dynamics of a complex situation of your choosing, and find data to support your model.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 2 study in Environment & Development
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Environmental Studies courses or view the range of currently available OU Environmental Studies courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Tuesday, 29th March 2016
Last updated on: Tuesday, 29th March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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