Tag Archives: population

Two islands, three themes, parts 1 & 2, then four themes

This 10-minute video is the first of three that use the science of population growth to introduce themes that apply to all of science (audio only).
The second part is audio only.
The third part is video or audio.

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What constitutes mathematical thinking?

What constitutes mathematical thinking?  I am teaching a course on mathematical thinking without defining the term for the students or myself.  I want a working definition to arise from the explorations we undertake during the course. Continue reading

A constructive conversation about population-environment problems

I have drafted a quick activity to get input that extends this multi-party conversation from 2000 about “How do we know there is a population-environment problem?” to bring in the following additional 3 discussants:
Novelo–Novelist concerned that climate change has been omitted from most literature
Futuro–Sci Fi writer concerned with gender and race as well as the usual fantasizing about scientific and technological developments
Litero–Interpreter of literature who is prepared to branch out from fictional literature to all discourses about knowledge.
I welcome comments on this blog post so as to a) glean ideas to weave into a Part 2 of this multi-party exchange and b) begin to address the issue Activo points to at the end: what are the “conditions make interactions among people from different fields as open as our were today”?  (This activity relates to Project 2 in a course on gender, race, science, and literature.) Continue reading

Epidemiological thinking applied to reducing domestic terrorism and gun violence, a podcast

There is a contrast in epidemiology and public health between shifting a population as a whole to reduce the risk of some disease and screening for high-risk individuals then treating them.  In a 9-minute podcast, this contrast is applied to vetting or banning immigrants in order to reduce risk of terrorism on US soil and to screening for mentally ill gun owners who might commit mass shootings.

What if everything is always already unruly complexity?

Open this pdf, then listen to this mp3 (18minutes)

(An 18-minute talk related to Taylor, P. J. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.)

How do we know we have population-environment problems? A journey from simple models to multiple points of engagement to contribute to change (Day 8 of Learning road trip)

On day 8 of the Learning road trip I led a workshop for the School for Designing a Society on “How do we know we have population-environment problems? A journey from simple models to multiple points of engagement to contribute to change.”

People consume resources and pollute the environment, so the more people, the more environmental problems we have–right? Not so fast! In this interactive workshop you will disturb that simple model. By the end you will be mapping multiple points of engagement through which you contribute to change in your particular circumstances. Along the way, you will consider how people marshall scientific knowledge to persuade others of the seriousness of the population problem, how inequalities among people qualitatively alter how “we” respond to the title question, how you can bring in social considerations to explain or interpret the directions that are taken in science, and how you can work with a perspective of being partly and jointly responsible for what is happening in society and the environment.

For more details on this workshop, see companion blog.

What if I think that everything is already unruly complexity?

What if I think that everything is already unruly complexity? What do I do?

First, I need to define for whoever is reading what I mean by that term. Unruly complexity refers to situations that
1. consist of heterogeneous components
2. are built up over time and subject to ongoing restructuring
3. are embedded in wider dynamics
Equivalently, for such situations:
1. definite boundaries are lacking
2. what goes on “outside” continually restructures what is “inside”
3. diverse processes come together to produce change

Definitions are best accompanied by an illustration. This is provided the case of soil erosion in a mountainous agricultural region in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Back to the question. What if everything is already unruly complexity?
My first Answer is there’s a Qualitative difference in analysis of causes and in implications drawn from such an analysis.
This answer is well illustrated by the two islands scenario regarding population growth.

The two islands scenario also illustrates an expository or conceptual theme, namely, the use of simple themes or scenarios that are readily digested but undermine simple, system-like formulations (such as population growth leads to environmental degradation). Instead, these themes or scenarios open up issues, pointing to greater complexity and to further work needed in particular cases (such as the case of soil erosion in a mountainous agricultural region in Oaxaca, Mexico). These “opening-up themes” call for or invite work based on dynamics that develop over time among particular, unequal agents whose actions implicate or span a range of social domains.

Back to the question: What if everything is already unruly complexity? and the first Answer that there’s a Qualitative difference in analysis of causes and in implications drawn from such an analysis. This leads to a new Question: Qualitative difference in analysis of causes and implications… for whom? See next post.