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Working with our environment: an introduction
Working with our environment: an introduction

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6.4.5 Complexity

The final concept, discussed in Case Study 3, is the complexity of interactions between society, technology and environment, illustrated by Figure 14. A simple technical fix to a problem, such as the introduction of a harmless gas (Freon), or a new predator (the Cane Toad), can have many unintended outcomes. This is not an argument against innovation or for inaction, but for looking at every issue in a broad, systemic way, to involve all those likely to be affected and to understand the ecological and physical basis of the problem: to take the broad view of technology.

Exercise 6

You have now reached the end of this Introduction. What skills and concepts do you think you have learnt and developed from working through it? Take a few minutes to go over what these might be, then make your own, personal list.


Your answer will depend on what you knew before you started and on how conscientiously you followed the exercises and suggestions in the text. The results may surprise you.

This is my list, but you may well be able to think of others, including some more general points such as organising your study space and time:

  • reading rapidly and in depth from technical extracts and arguments

  • summarising and making notes

  • using and interpreting a variety of charts, diagrams and symbols

  • using and interpreting numerical and chemical information

  • following some basic concepts in chemistry and physics

  • thinking critically about some of the arguments put forward

  • making sense of some highly complex systems and interactions.