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Understanding the environment: Complexity and chaos

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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.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 12 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 29th March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Environmental Studies
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Understanding the environment: Complexity and chaos


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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 netlogo/ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . 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

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