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  • Pauline Hoffmann

We are all Connected - A Systems Theory Approach to Life

What is systems theory and why can't we all just get along?

I am a huge fan of systems theory. It started when I was a student of biology. I saw and learned that we are all interconnected. Some may call it the "butterfly effect," which is essentially the compounding effect of small changes. So if I do something like treat someone poorly, that may have an impact far beyond what I know or see. You might also look at it as dominoes: once you knock one down, others follow closely behind until you've impacted the entire system. Physicists in the audience may recognize this as Newton's Third Law (for everything there is an equal and opposite reaction). What happened during the pandemic when all the toilet paper was gone? I think we all know....

I reference a couple of very old, very dated, but very relevant graphics that I've taken from textbooks over the years. Sadly, I don't remember which books they came from! My apologies. The work here is not my own (in case you couldn't tell):

The graphic to the left shows a "system" with internal and external forces playing upon it. The graphic to the right notes an example of a system at work. In this case, it's the population of a city, its garbage and associated parts. The + and - and arrows note the effects. For example, as the number of people in the city increases, the amount of garbage per area increases (arrow pointing toward amount of garbage per area with a + sign associated with it). Conversely, if the number of sanitation facilities decreases (- sign), the number of diseased is likely to increase (the arrow points the way).

I would argue there are no closed systems. There will always be something interacting with something else. We all have an impact on ourselves and our surroundings. That is the key to systems theory and systems thinking.

I am particularly interested in systems theory in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. I think it is clear how interconnected we all are given the spread of the virus. It is something that is still with us. Much has been written and will continue to be written about the pandemic and its impact on globalization (globalization is another key and perfect example of systems theory at work). A noted academic article may be found here (and I hope readers can access it - if not, reach out and let me know).

I wanted to discuss systems theory and globalization because I am working on a larger project that will rely heavily on this theory, our understanding of globalization and our role as human beings within the system. Stay tuned for more fun in this area!

And we end with an Arbitrary Random Stat (ARS). This week one of our beehives was attacked by a bear - twice. It is a misnomer that bears go after honey (yes, they eat it if it's in the way, but.....). Instead, they are interested in the protein-packed propolis (even nature alliterates). has an interesting article detailing what bears are looking for when they attack a beehive.

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