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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 43 For an ecologist, this way of looking is an essential tool. For a mindful citizen, pattern- or systems-thinking can help you raise useful questions in addressing environmental concerns. You can ask about the history of the conflict, the pattern of policy deci- sions, the economic and social needs of those involved, and the ecological relations at stake. Astute observers of systems can decipher the patterns of feed- back that reflect the dominant shaping forces. Too much heat, the cat seeks shade. Too much cold, the cat finds a warm car hood to sleep on. Systems are shaped by self-regulating mechanisms, such as those that keep your body temperature constant, and by self-or- ganizing patterns that allow the system to adapt when new oppor- tunities arise. Self-regulating (which maintains the stability of the system) and self-organizing (which allows the system to evolve or “learn”) are both happening all the time at all levels of activity. You can practice observing this in your own body/mind to see how such feedback works. How do you respond to rainy days? To sunny days? To being hungry? To eating too much? To getting enough sleep? To not getting enough sleep? You can reflect on which places nourish you and why. This is all good practice for developing a systems mind. So far I’m talking about fairly straightforward bio-geophysical reality. But the law of interdependence also includes the role of human thought and mental conditioning. In Buddhist philoso- phy, intention and mental attitudes count; what people think about the environment has a major effect on what they choose to do. The Buddhist systems-thinker involved in environmen- tal controversy would ask as much about the human actors and their attitudes as about the affected trees and wildlife. This leads to a key aspect of systems thinking, agency, or who is actually doing what? This means determining who is respon- sible for decisions or actions that impact the planet and the hu- man community. It means tracing the chain of cause and effect Left: Log Yard, Tacoma 2004. Below: Recycling Yard #6, Seattle, 2004.