Flipping the Right Policy Switches on Climate Change Policy the Greyson Way

Flipping the Right Policy Switches on Climate Change Policy
Social policies are, more often than not, framed with the traditionalist rationalization of human intentionality. Be that as it may, policy tenders the protocols that are then acted up-on publically to bring social impact. Of course, a well-intended climate policy must take into account on courses of collective action as well as funding priorities and constraints. While some level of desired social and health satisfaction may be experienced in the short term by shifting policy priorities, it is also probable that no tangible value is achieved toward to the overarching desire to elicit system wide impact. Did you hear that the two largest suppliers of pollutants, China and the United States, ‘pledged’ to actionably reduce limit greenhouse emissions over a media-friendly handshake (http://tinyurl.com/ld7mz8y)? Commentators are calling these ambitious goals for the EU. But Directorate-General for Climate Action (“DG CLIMA”) long recognized that climate policy both within the EU is a large part of the solution. The wisdom of the DG CLIMA offers the requirement that with 2020 policy goals, it is ‘adaptation measures (that) will reduce the European Union’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.’ (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/about-us/mission/index_en.htm). This is an inescapable reason for governing bodies of all levels to open their ears and eyes to this reality that change really means adaptation! And the EU appears to be leading the way, perhaps unnoticed by constituents outside of the EU.
John Sterman, a pioneer in systems thinking, corrected our thinking about effects in a system. We often frame the resulting social effects of a policy as ‘side effects’. This is incorrect thinking. What governing bodies often try to combat are so-called ‘side effects’. There are main intended effects which are the ones that policymakers want to happen. What policymakers often uncover are unintended effects, not side effects, which signal faulty understanding of the climate system.
Climate change and ecological sustainability is hot right now. No pun is intended. Global governance to reverse the historic ‘dangerous anthropogenic (manmade) interference’ makes for good news with often with short media shelf-lives. This is a fancy way of saying that human action is tied to the state of the ecosystem. The language of the Kyoto Protocol provisions is less social media friendly. The long term effects of carbon emissions continue long after the media debate switches to another policy development. Human actions have left an injurious pox on the Earth’s ecosystem. Consumers do have an effect on climate change. But we need data to measure these consumer effects. The IGBP Climate-Change Index ‘highlights the general trend by bringing together key climate-change indicators: atmospheric carbon dioxide, temperature, and sea level and sea ice.’ (http://tinyurl.com/c8bhsbg). James Greyson, founder of the BlindSpot think tank in the UK, wrote that ‘people are not inherently destructive’ (http://tinyurl.com/k6v5ur3).The balance between personal consumption of resources with the need for climate health highlights the very quandary of policy success. It is hard to give up something of worth when the effect of that may seem inconsequential in the big scheme of things. People may just side with the illusion that their personal actions somehow are not connected to the collective ill effects on the Earth’s ecosystem. People will at all costs minimize personal burden and disengage spiritual discomfort while still contributing to Styrofoam to landfills.
Failure is picking up a socially expected square peg after the innovative oval one fails to fit a conventional hole. If you really “need” the oval to work (and the world is not yet with the program), check out the board again. If there is no oval hole, darn it and chuck that board. Find a reamer and create your own or perhaps ask for a refund with no return shipping. Failure is the incessant attempt to satisfy others by hiding that socially acceptable square peg behind your back and asking for a few more days (in dog years) to work it out. Whittling that square peg with that dull pocket knife into a misshapen imposter of an oval peg serves no god. That imposter peg is not flush to the side of the hole. It is surrounded by slight flashes of open space. That open space created around the non-flush peg should extract with a slight tug. Trust me, that tug will be less taxing than the linear process that got that wrong peg there in the first place. Policy has little tolerance for misshapen pegs that bring with them unintended effects. Use a policy that works until it does not or admit that it never worked at all. Then make it work without the errors gumming up the machinery. What works may not be the most apparent or popular choice.
Climate policy holds a special role that should not be understated. A policy has the power to guide and mold the direction of societal movements or evade an unfortunate setback. The policy is rather worthless, even harmful, if it merely placates to critics that policymakers are doing something. James Greyson expertly forewarned that ‘less bad is not good enough’. Every point of attack in a policy does not yield the same bang for the policy’s buck. The best way to assure policy effectiveness is to change mindsets or paradigms around climate change. Climate policy cannot be business as usual. Policy as conceived today is not reversing the ecological losses plaguing the ecosystem. But this is a large load to carry for the vast diversity of workforce that is involved in only one of many spokes in the regulation system.


NIH continues commitment to systems and health- R21 mechanism renewed!

Systems Science and Health in the Behavioral and Social Sciences (R21)
Application Receipt/Submission Date(s): Multiple dates, see announcement.

For your consideration- Chapter 2 from my book is freely available here

Chapter 2 from my book found posted here as a pdf and on the Springer International website

Chapter 2 of my Systems Thinking and Policy Book


Now a Research Fellow with the Earth System Governance Project

The Earth System Governance Project is the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change. I look forward to framing sustainability policy with systems thinking. I am affiliated with the Global Economic System Group. Check out the organization!


My systems and policy book has a release date and is in pre-order!

It is Official- My systems thinking/policy book has a release date of December 2014- Pre-order print or ebook @ Amazon and Springer website http://lnkd.in/bun2Dvs. My book is popping up with independent book vendors as well.Choose the vendor that suits you! No vendor endorsement implied.

Just in time for holiday giving or course book selection!

Slicing the policy pie/pi

There are times when we accept publically accept an approximation to move forward with life. Take, for instance, π (pi), better known for representing that irrational number of 3.14159 (and a lot of change) starring as the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its diameter. Yes, many of us recall our friend Archimedes and π from trigonometry class. Pi (π) is a mathematical constant derived from the area of a circle. Plug that π in to make sense of some spatial relationship. There is no riotous call for proofing unless it is on the exam or the SAT. Do students even proof anymore? The π is rationally accepted to serve a purpose to an end, to finish that darn homework on distributed systems. I will argue that the allegory of π can help us avoid clouded, myopic policy decisions.
A mental model is a cognitive tool. Success comes with altering those mental models. In other words, a mental model is not the dénouement. Formal simulations and mental models need each other. Mental models fall asleep on the job when complexity of the policy is dynamic (Sterman 2000). But it must be remember that policies are not spit out by modelling programs nor should they. So why am I calling upon modelling when policymakers already are bombarded with so much? I present the “policy π” in application of model testing to policymaking. “Policy π” focuses on making decisions that account for both systemic uncovered through the approximations garnered from formal modelling as well as practical issues posed in implementing the policy in the real world. Included in this “Policy π” is the common issue of policy ratification.
Regardless of the policy model used in a policy system,
when a new policy is written or committed in the system,
the administrator must consider [policy ratification as] how the new policy interacts with those
already existing in the system. (Agrawal et al 2005)

The model does NOT offer the “answer”. But the model is downright necessary to understand what is going on. When people brain storm, we battle with mental (qualitative) models pieced together as divergent points (inputs). We have all been there. Mentally, we approximate all the time. It is a natural part of the policy process. To the miasmic stench of permanent markers littering a flip chart, the decision makers and perhaps a silent minority are left to make sense of that complex data to get at the process that has no obvious end in sight. There needs to be “reflective conversation with the situation (policy )”of the simulated results (Schon 1992). The model does NOT forecast. The model may not be able to capture all of the connections to other policies that it is related to. It is a simulation. It is a model that is based on decision rules. It is a network with a priori boundaries.
Even with the best minds around the table, there still must be a mechanism to unleash the mental models around the table. Just as health policy would not move forward without epidemiology evidence, so should be the place of systems thinking in the policy process. Systems offers math to support or refute initial reactions to early conditions viewed under a policy. But the model will not be a predictive crystal ball. Much chatter has been circulated about the overreach of models into the world of prediction in policy. Agreed. But the meat of policy is not the model. In my opinion it should not be viewed in that way.
The policy π supported by the model, may give you sweet potato when the table (policymakers) ordered and expected the boysenberry that is now out of season. There may still be that flaky crust and reasonable price. But the input of a tuber over a berry is a notable change. Some of the ingredients may change. The taste will differ. Cooking time may change. You may not like boysenberry. The change to sweet potato could require a new produce distributor, who must then must recalibrate (with excitement) accommodating the needs of a new customer. Your fellow diners may try to convince you to hold out for boysenberry though there is a chance that maybe this sweet potato pie may remind you of Grandma’s. Sometimes a model changes that policy “pie” expectation. The model will not cover every possible scenario. Can you accept the presentation of the sweet potato? And perhaps next week, once again upending your policy gastronomy? Yes, a pie is a pie. Both a sweet potato and a boysenberry are dicotyledonous. Few would confuse the two. Each would present its own unique set of growth habits and susceptibilities. But food stuffs present different phenotypes and culinary experiences. Policy satiates, leaving some bellies full while others push away from the table wanting. Each policy π must be approached and respected as a necessity to prudent, systemic action to debate, not as a letdown of the expected π wished to grace the plate. How filling was that policy pi?

Agrawal, D et al (June 2005) Policy Ratification. Presented at Policies for Distributed Systems and Networks Sixth IEEE International Workshop
Schon D (1992).The theory of inquiry: Dewey’s legacy to education. Curriculum Inquiry. 22(2), 119-39
Sterman J (2002) All models are wrong: reflections on becoming a systems scientist. System Dynamics Review, 18, 501-531

My Social Networks and Health syllabus included in Complexity Explorer


The Complexity Explorer project, being developed by the Sante Fe Institute, has included my Social Networks and Health course syllabus in its depository of course syllabi that offer instruction on complex systems science. Though I have since worked on some revisions, this is the second organization that has highlighted my course. The syllabus was first selected for the KaiserEDU course depository (since taken offline). I am working on integrating my new forthcoming book more prominently in the new syllabus.


Michele Battle-Fisher is affliated with the Ronin Institute

Founded by Jon Wilkins, formerly associated with the Sante Fe Institute, the Ronin Institute is flipping and transforming the nature of academia. The Ronin Institute houses established researchers of various disciplines that reside mostly outside of academic institutions. I do not need to stress that there are a large number of could-be researchers who do not make it or do not care to be a part of the traditional university system. The popular code for what we do is ‘fractional’ research. Fractional or not, we are a group of strong researchers that kick butt and have bonded together to have a collective voice while adding to scientific knowledge.



Some press about the Ronin Institute:

1. http://www.wired.com/2012/05/the-rise-of-fractional-scholarship-and-the-ronin-institute/

2. http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2012/05/26/new-idea-for-unemployed-academics/UUZOGe1KNWvUXDl7Yae1IL/story.html- We ain’t wayward! We are Ronins!

3. http://p2pfoundation.net/Ronin_Institute_for_Independent_Scholarship