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Nature matters: systems thinking and experts


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This unit explores conceptual tools for assisting our thinking and deliberation on what matters. In Section 1, a reading by Ronald Moore introduces the notion of 'framing' nature, raising the perceived paradox of inevitably devaluing an aesthetically pleasing unframed entity. Three further readings, two from Fritjof Capra and one from Werner Ulrick (all of which are quite short and markedly reduced from their original courses), provide an understanding of systems thinking for explicitly framing issues of environmental responsibility. The development of systems literacy (referred to by Capra in terms of ecoliteracy and by Ulrich in terms of critical systems thinking) is explored to counter the sometimes debilitating dualistic positioning on environmental matters alluded to by writers such as Talbott, Light and Higgs amongst many others.

Section 2 focuses more on how conceptual tools can help to inform better policy and action regarding environmental matters. Here, a reading by Robyn Eckersley critically explores the importance and limitations of environmental pragmatism for informing policy. Finally, ideas of cognitive justice are explored in a reading by Shiv Visvanathan, who suggests a need for continually developing constructive space between scientific experts and lay experts in order to inform policy and action on what matters that reflects a wider constituency, and that is more specific to eco-cultural circumstances.

This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course Environmental responsibility: ethics, policy and action (TD866). [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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