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Understanding the environment: Flows and feedback

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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: Flows and feedback, 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:

  • use the sign graph diagramming technique to develop and communicate a systemic understanding of complex situations
  • identify feedback relationships as fundamental controllers within systems and as points of intervention to enact change.

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: flows and feedback


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This course will allow you to extend your visual modelling skills through the use of the sign graph diagramming technique. You will explore the dynamic relationship between social, economic and ecological factors whose interdependencies will determine the complex dynamics of the future as it unfolds. Your final task will be to identify points of intervention within this complex system in order to "nudge" the situation towards a more favourable outcome.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 2 study in Environment & Development [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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