Re: Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Mon Feb 20 2006 - 11:20:53 EST

At 01:18 AM 2/20/2006, Pim van Meurs wrote:

>Janice Matchett <> wrote:
>Outta the park. Pass it on! ~ Janice
>Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century

>Not even close. At best a technical foul. ~ Pim

### Hummmm. ... a near polar-opposite evaluation from mine, but you
offer no rebuttal to Crichton's assertions.

Out of curiosity, I went back and re-read the speech and have chosen
some of the statements that I believe may have triggered such a
negative reaction. Let me know if I've overlooked something:

"....the diagram [shown here:
] implies that things are simple: Kill the wolves, and save the
elk. Move the grizzlies, and avoid the lawyers. And on, and
on. It's this simplistic, cause-and-effect thinking that must go. .."

"We must embrace complexity theory."

"..[it is] Our human predisposition [to] treat all systems as linear
when they are not. .."

"The science that underlies our understanding of complex systems is
now thirty years old. A third of a century should be plenty of time
for this knowledge and to filter down to everyday consciousness, but
... not much has penetrated ordinary human thinking. ... complexity
theory has raced through the financial world. It has been briskly
incorporated into medicine. But organizations that care about the
environment do not seem to notice that their ministrations are
deleterious in many cases. Lawmakers do not seem to notice when
their laws have unexpected consequences, or make things
worse. Governors and mayors and managers may manage their complex
systems well or badly, but if they manage well, it is usually because
they have an instinctive understanding of how to deal with complex
systems. Most managers fail. .."

"...who believes that the complex system of our atmosphere behaves in
such a simple and predictable way that if we reduce one component,
carbon dioxide, we will therefore reliably reduce temperature? CO2
is not like an accelerator on a car. It's not linear (and by the
way, neither is a car accelerator.)

And furthermore, who believes that the climate can be stabilized when
it has never been stable throughout the earth's history?

We can only entertain such an idea if we don't really understand what
a complex system is. We're like the blonde who returned the scarf
because it was too tight. We don't get it. .."

"If we want to manage complexity, we must eliminate fear. Fear may
draw a television audience. It may generate cash for an advocacy
group. It may support the legal profession. But fear paralyzes
us. It freezes us. And we need to be flexible in our responses, as
we move into a new era of managing complexity ..."

"Is this really the end of the world? Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods?

No, we simply live on an active planet. Earthquakes are continuous,
a million and a half of them every year, or three every minute. A
Richter 5 quake every six hours, a major quake every 3 weeks. A quake
as destructive as the one in Pakistan every 8 months. It's nothing
new, it's right on schedule.

At any moment there are 1,500 electrical storms on the planet. A
tornado touches down every six hours. We have ninety hurricanes a
year, or one every four days. Again, right on schedule. Violent,
disruptive, chaotic activity is a constant feature of our globe.

Is this the end of the world? No: this is the world. It's time we
knew it." ~ Michael Crichton

~ Janice .... who hopes you will also explain how your interpretation
of the facts is different from the blonde's interpretation of the
facts when she returned a scarf because it was too tight.
Received on Mon Feb 20 11:22:28 2006

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