Systems Thinking

At its core, environmental education is about understanding the interconnections that exist in nature and between nature and human societies. According to David Orr, "despite a great deal of talk about systems, we continue to administer, organize, analyze, manage, and govern complex ecological systems as if they were a collection of isolated parts and not an indissoluble union of energy, water, soils, land, forests, biota, and air."

Systems help make sense of a large and complex world. A system is made up of parts. Each part can be understood separately. The whole, however, is understood only by understanding the relationships and interactions among the parts. The human body can be understood as a system; so can galaxies. Organizations, individual cells, communities of animals and plants, and families can all be understood as systems. And systems can be nested within other systems.

The audio clip below is an excerpt of a webinar David Orr led on Systems Thinking through NAAEE's monthly webinar series: Bringing New Ideas and Innovation to the Field of EE.