IWA Publishing

An enquiry into the place of systems analysis in the politics of water and the environment

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In many jurisdictions, the participation of stakeholders in decisions concerning their environment, and their water environment in particular, is still carried out, if at all, on an ad hoc basis. This paper envisions a legislative structure that allows a natural participation by the people in decision-making. While systems analysis and models may inform opinion in the ideal Legislature, especially among its members who are systēm analysts (economists, engineers, and physical scientists), the models carry with them the bias of the systēm viewpoint: the ‘whole’, within which particular environmental and water problems arise, is externalized as a solid-like, inanimate, analyzable, and quantifiable object, reduced to the sum of its parts. The representation of such objects by web-enabled hydroinformatic systems does not erase the bias; it may even amplify it. The alternative ‘intuitive way of seeing in the mind's eye the whole in every part’ is the appropriate way for those members of the Legislature who have not learned the systems viewpoint. Quiet and observant immersion in (1) the company of those who know first-hand the issues at stake; (2) rhetoric, dialectic, and face-to-face eye-contact with those who are concerned; and (3) practice in Goethe's way of science may help us become better participants in the creation and deliverers of social justice for our fellow beings.

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