Systems Thinking

 Sometimes, we must tackle our problems by first brainstorming solutions. Organizing ideas can help individuals solve an issue at hand. This is where system thinking comes into play: whenever there is a problem at hand, there is always a cause, people impacted, limitations, and solutions. These parts are all interconnected in a way in which some might impact one more heavily than others. Systems thinking helps the individual take a look at the bigger picture and find ways to tackle a problem in the most effective way possible.  By using lines to connect the four interconnected parts of the problem at hand, we can visually see the pieces as they come together. It is not easy to determine the best solution, therefore weighing our options is the most effective way in which to find a solution. Sometimes, there is more than one solution that can be derived from the problem based on the system thinking methodology. This process allows us to think outside the box and take a broader look at the problem at hand.

            In this case, the problem is that our transportation system is heavily reliant on fossil fuel usage. After deliberating on what influences the problem and creating lists before connecting how each part affects each other; I was able to come up with some factors that led to the reliance on fossil fuels along with some solutions. Some major problems that causes the reliance on fossil fuel is that there is limited infrastructure to support renewable energy as a source for fuel. This is due to the fact that infrastructure for renewable energy sources are expensive to produce. For example, “The average cost in 2017 to install solar systems ranged from a little over $2,000 per kilowatt (kilowatts are a measure of power capacity) for large-scale systems to almost $3,700 for residential systems. A new natural gas plant might have costs around $1,000/kW. Wind comes in around $1,200 to $1,700/kw”[1]. This is accompanied by the lack of collaboration between oil companies in power, for example Shell, with companies that want to be in power. Also, there is a lack of transparency between the government, big oil companies, and consumers. This allows the government to apply larger subsidies on fossil fuels, while not contributing enough to renewable energy.

Solutions to this problem are limited by big businesses, our habits, and available infrastructure. Big businesses have a large influence on the market and control most of the oil distributed to the public. We as citizens, rely on these big companies to fuel our cars because we are living in a fossil fuel mindset which fuels our habits and is convenient. Unfortunately, it can be costly to create infrastructure to support renewable energy and rely on rare metals.

With every decision we make, we then create an impact on others around us—negative or positive. By changing our mindset from fossil fuel dependent to renewable energy, we then start to make a difference on our health and change American culture. Getting involved locally is also another way in which we can express what we are passionate about and hold our representatives accountable for actions we want to be taken. This is important, because local level action is what affects us in our everyday lives. Additionally, once we start considering and incorporating into our price the externalities involved in manufacturing our fossil fuels, we will then have a significant change to consumer health. By accepting them and paying for prices we would not have paid otherwise due to government subsidies, we will change our consumption of oil and start the use of renewable resources. Society cannot do this alone, therefore, we need the cooperation of big corporations and renewable energy corporations to help with start-up costs on infrastructure and other aspects involved in acquiring renewable energy. With the help of international organizations, we can support other countries who already have this process started and learn from their methods to apply it here in the United States.

Understandably, with every solution there comes unintended consequences. Not every solution is great, therefore to make one, we must weigh all our options before choosing one with the least amount of drawback. For example, when thinking about investing in renewable resources, the initial cost can be extremely high. This may seem like an undesirable investment to make. Fortunately, if an investor looks beyond the initial cost, they will realize that in the long run, the investment will pay off since it will be the energy source of the future. Another thing to consider is that with choosing a solution, certain aspects of the community will be affected, whether it be positively or negatively as well. If more people are investing in renewable energy sources, big oil companies will eventually be affected negatively. This will be a huge drawback on their economy and shift the economic trends in society as well. Although not the worst drawback from investing in renewable energy, it is still something to consider when shifting to a new energy source.

Changing a lifestyle that has been bestowed upon us for over a century will take time. The way in which we choose to live our lives will therefore affect not only us, but future populations as well. With so many moving parts interacting with each other, it is hard to determine what can be the right path to go down on to fix the problem of fossil fuel dependent transportation. Fortunately, there isn’t just one way to attack the problem at hand. Since there are many moving parts, it is at the discretion of the individual what way they would like to act. Any positive action influencing the cut back of fossil fuel in today’s world can help future generations to come to live in a cleaner society.

[1] “Barriers to Renewable Energy Technologies.” Union of Concerned Scientists. December 20, 2017. Accessed October 30, 2018.