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2.4 Summarising conversation as what matters

Brian Wynne suggests that fundamental dichotomies associated with environmental matters underpin modern society – society versus nature, the social versus the natural, social knowledge versus natural knowledge, expert knowledge versus lay knowledge (1996, p. 45). The metaphor of conversation helps to move us beyond these dichotomous constructs and allows us to focus more on the integral relationships enmeshed in nature matters, relationships that I would argue are central to environmental r
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5.3.4 Plan testing and validation

It is one thing to have a plan; it is another thing to have a plan that you can rely on to work. There is an old military maxim that ‘A plan only gets you into first contact with the enemy. After that, you fly by the seat of your pants’ (Anon). A 1993 IBM report on business continuity planning confirmed this when it revealed that ‘half of the plans failed completely or substantially when they were first tested’ (IBM, 1993, p. 5).

The IBM report identified three categories of pla
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5.5 Emergency planning as an organisational management function

If emergency services' EPOs plan to respond to other people's emergencies, people managing a business activity with major incident potential have a different perspective. They have to respond to emergencies within their own organisation. In effect, if an incident occurs, the organisation is itself in a crisis, with functionality impaired. All of this comes into the corporate governance area and the implications of internal control. This requires companies to ensure that they have a sound syst
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4.1 Human predation and extinctions

There are a number of ways in which humans have altered ecosystems, that have led to the decline of particular species. We will leave to one side any major interference such as felling forests to provide land for agricultural and urban development, and instead begin by looking at examples where we have eroded or eradicated stocks of particular species. This has notably been a consequence of the over-exploitation of food species (prey items). Predators do not normally eliminate their prey (see
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2 Altering the environment

Later in this unit we will be considering a number of ways in which humans alter their environment.

Question 3

In what ways do you think we are altering the environment?

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1 Legacies and inheritance

There is no doubt that each one of us affects the lives of those who surround us. Many of our interactions with others are very obvious to us and could be described in terms of personal, professional and social relationships. But there are other, often unnoticed, interactions: the mother taking her children to school, the man buying his paper, the youth at the bus stop – all people we see regularly and only notice when they are not there. Younger people are often very worried about what oth
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3.2 The agreement to protect the ozone layer

After a decade of controversy about the possible effects of CFCs, in 1985 British scientists discovered over the Antarctic a quite unexpected ‘hole’ in the ozone layer which was the size of the USA. This helped to galvanise the international community into action (though some who took part in the negotiations claim it played little part). By 1987 the first international agreement to control substances damaging to the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol, was established. Interestingl
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5 Conclusion

The issue of climate change draws attention to the power of human activity to transform the planet in its entirety, and it is brought into sharp focus by the predicament of low-lying islands like Tuvalu. As we have seen in this unit, the issue of rising sea level and other potential impacts of changing global climate also point to the transformations in the physical world that occur even without human influence. Oceanic islands provide a particularly cogent reminder that the living things wit
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • identify the economic issues faced by developing countries in mutilateral trade negotiations;

  • describe these issues from a developing country perspective;

  • explain how the economic power of nations impinges upon the ability of states to negotiate settlements that are beneficial to them.


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Module team

The Open University course team

Course Team Chair of Production

Gillian Rose, Professor of Cultural Geography

Course Team Chair of Presentation

Chris Brook, Senior Lecturer in Geography

External Assessor

Peter Jackson, Professor of Human Geography, University of Sheffield

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References

Dickens, P. (1986) Global Shift: Industrual Change in a Turbulent World, London, Harper Row.
Harrison, A., Britton, T. and Swanson, A. (2004) Working Abroad: The Benefits Flowing from Nationals Working in Other Economies, Paris, OECD.
New Internationalist (2004a), ‘IMF / World Bank: the Facts’, March, no. 365.
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2.1 Learning from video footage

You might think that learning from audio-visual sources is very different from learning from written sources yet, somewhat surprisingly, it is much the same. This section of the unit will help you to think about how you can turn the very familiar, but usually passive, process of watching a video into the active process of learning. Watching the video will involve the skills of engaging with the material and making sense of it for yourself, just as if it were written materials. The advantage o
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1.3 Activity 1

Activity 1

Before you read on, I would like you to dwell for just a moment on the significance of this shift from direct investment by Western firms to the establishment of subcontracting ties with overseas partners. Aside from outside
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1.1 Introduction

Looking back over the 1970s, it is perhaps hard now to appreciate just how dramatic were the changes to the global map of industry taking place at that time. As more and more of the world's industry shifted from the affluent nations to the poorer, less developed countries in search of a cheaper labour force, the global economic map had to be redrawn to take account of the borders crossed and the distances traversed by firms from wealthier countries seeking to generate higher profits by reloca
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2.7 Representing feedback through system dynamics diagrams

System dynamics diagrams, also sometimes called ‘stock flow’ diagrams, can be derived from causal diagrams, although in some cases it might be easier to start directly with the system dynamics diagramming technique, especially if you need to explore around one particular object’s attribute, such as population number.

System dynamics diagrams are drawn using four symbols: boxes representing attributes or ‘stocks’ of objects (e.g. level of water in a tank); valves representing
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2.3 Negative feedback and stability

If positive feedback results in change, then another mechanism must exist that creates stability. This is negative feedback.

What stops water hyacinth from taking over the world? Clearly, it is the lack of tropical freshwater. As the number of water hyacinth reaches the limits of their water body, there is a sudden increase in the death rate as offspring compete for the ever decreasing levels of sunlight. The sudden overcrowding allows the establishment of a negative feed
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2.1 Systems thinking: the first step

The processes of analysis and synthesis in conventional thinking are based on the concept of an object. An object is something that can be clearly distinguished from its environment and can be characterised by its attributes. Attributes enable categorisation schemes that are the basis of our normal thinking. So when you look at a particular ecosystem, for example a pond, you find different animals and plants. And if you look at any ‘book of the pond’ you find each a
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1.2 Readings

In your studies of the learning units so far, you have investigated a range of factors that may lead up to the ‘perfect storm’: a combination of interlinked environmental, social and economic crises. You have also explored your personal ecology, extending this to incorporate quality of life and environmental impact aspects. You have done this using a range of verbal, visual and mathematical models.

You have also become familiar with the fact that our mental models evolve through th
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to:

  • use the sign graph diagramming technique to develop and communicate a systemic understanding of complex situations;

  • identify feedback relationships as fundamental controllers within systems and as points of intervention to enact change.


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Introduction

This unit will allow you to extend your visual modelling skills through the use of the sign graph diagramming technique. You will explore the dynamic relationship between social, economic and ecological factors whose interdependencies will determine the complex dynamics of the future as it unfolds. Your final task will be to identify points of intervention within this complex system in order to "nudge" the situation towards a more favourable outcome.

This unit is from our archive and is
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