Can We Cope with the Complexity of Reality? Why Craving Easy Answers Is at the Root of our Problems
Education for a viable future has never been more important than in our era of climate change, fake news, self-illusions, and political upheaval. Whether humanity will have a dignified future hangs in the balance. The urgency of finding sound solutions to a number of complex problems is obvious. We can’t really allow ourselves to get it wrong, but the temptation to fall for easy, convenient answers is considerable. This book focuses on emerging insights from various fields which allow us to collectively build evidence-based and wise solutions. This requires us to clarify how to arrive at a sound understanding of reality, which belief-systems and ideologies impede this understanding, and which issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We cannot solve the climate crisis or any other pressing problems besetting humanity by using mental models which are demonstrably flawed. We ignore important findings and insights in fields unfamiliar to us at our peril. Whatever our professional field, we need to self-critically reflect on the conclusions presented in this book in order to increase the quality and efficacy of our educational interventions for a better world.
Dr Rolf Jucker is currently Director of the Swiss Foundation for Nature-based Education (SILVIVA) and a learning for sustainability expert, having previously served as Director of the Swiss Foundation for Environmental Education from 2008 to 2012. Having gained an MSc in Education for Sustainability (EfS), he has worked extensively on education for a viable future and published widely on the subject. He is the author of Do We Know What We Are Doing? Reflections on Learning, Knowledge, Economics, Community and Sustainability (2014).
“This is a timely book in that it explores the relationship between intelligence and rationality. Why is this so important? Because, humanity is facing an existential crisis; a pending Armageddon which threatens our very existence on planet earth as a result of our unsustainable lifestyles. And, yet humanity has so far failed to respond to this threat at scale and with urgency. Rolf Jucker frames this book from the standpoint of future proofing our education systems, so that current and future generations might learn and so create a more sustainable future, for all life on earth. The book argues that we are beset by a huge array of false news, self-illusion, echo chambers, myths and stories. Our beliefs do not map onto the actual structure of the world (reality). This makes it increasingly difficult for us to make rational, evidence based and logical decisions. This cognitive dissonance between belief-systems and rational thought and action is a major issue for education and learning for a sustainable future. The book explores how intelligence can be a tool for both propaganda and truth-seeking. A cutting-edge book which all who promote education and learning as a major tool in influencing our behaviour and actions should read.”
Dr Stephen Martin, Hon FSE, FRSB, FIEnvSci
Honorary Professor, University of Worcester; Visiting Professor in Learning for Sustainability, University of the West of England; President, Change Agents UK; WWF Fellow; Policy Advisor to the UK National Commission for UNESCO
“How come we are not able to make sound decisions and enact the necessary change rationally, despite knowing so much about climate change and sustainable development? Rolf Jucker's slim but thoroughly insightful book tackles a topic on which we often capitulate: the complexity of the world we live in and the challenge to deal with these complexities in an adequate way. This respected expert on education for sustainable development is a lateral thinker who easily crosses interdisciplinary boundaries. He focuses on the key point that only very little of the above mentioned change happens, although we know a lot and are capable of doing a lot. He reveals the several layers of underlying reasons: first, our practices and actions are often not informed by the best scientific knowledge which is actually at our disposal. Second, we hardly ever succeed in overcoming our neurological simplifications and barriers in perception and cognition when we try to solve problems. Third, we are blind to irrational fallacies caused by ideological, religious or un-systemic thinking. Lastly, we ignore structural factors, such as overpopulation or (un-)democratic preconditions, when it comes to making the decisions necessary for the survival of our planet. Rolf Jucker skilfully interweaves findings from the philosophy of science, neuroscience, systems theory and social sciences. He outlines an inspiring framework, based on democratic reflection and educational insights, on how to tackle the great challenges of the Anthropocene. I recommend Rolf Jucker's interdisciplinary approach and his plea for more rationality to all those who want to think outside the box and above all want to self-critically think about themselves: policy makers, scholars, professionals – not only in the field of sustainable development, but in any domain where complex problems have to be solved democratically and critically by people working together with people.”
Lecturer/Researcher, School of Social Work, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Switzerland
“In a world where referring to something as ‘fake news’ can be sufficient to dismiss an evidenced-based argument, there is a need for everyone to find a firm foundation from which to view the world. As Rolf Jucker points out in this book, the complex challenges facing humanity and the planet as a whole, cannot be resolved by unsubstantiated beliefs and opinions presented as facts through social media. The book not only presents evidence for the causes of the ecological crisis that threatens the long-term existence of the human species, but also explores why this is the case and why the response to the climate emergency and accelerating loss of biodiversity has been so inadequate. By analysing some key issues that should concern us all, but which are often avoided because of their complexity and controversial nature, Rolf Jucker points us towards an evidenced-based position from which a more substantive response to our current predicament can emerge.”
Dr Glenn Strachan
Independent consultant in ESD; Tutor and former Course Director, Education for Sustainability Programme, London South Bank University; Chair, Shared Earth Trust.
“In various human systems such as the economy, agriculture and food, or democracy, contrary developments are underway and we are witnessing major changes. The “great transformation” that is necessary for the sustainable existence of human beings on earth must be negotiated broadly. To do this, we need to navigate confusingly complex issues and questions that we cannot solve on our own. We need the courage to engage in dialogue on controversial and emotionally sensitive topics with our neighbours, our loved ones, the people we can’t understand and the men and women we presume are in charge. Rolf Jucker’s book is important as it illuminates the connection between rational thinking, learning, knowledge and action – and does not shy away from disputed and ignored topics such as religion and ending population growth. He delivers essential input for opening spaces of differentiated dialogue, which are the starting points of change that manifests itself in action”
Director, sanu future learning ag, Switzerland
“This book by Rolf Jucker is remarkable in that it exposes one of the central problems facing our modern societies, namely our individual as well as collective failures to critically assess information and to confront complex, problematic situations. On issues such as sustainability, climate change, overpopulation, religion or education, Rolf Jucker demonstrates that viable solutions cannot be obtained in the absence of a fact-based, informed, objective and differentiated analysis of the situation. This well-documented book shows that a differentiated analysis is not easy for any individual or group, but that the necessary effort it requires leads to inescapable, albeit sometimes provocative, conclusions. A must-read for any person concerned about the current challenges facing our planet and its current inhabitants.”
Director, Life Science Zurich Learning Center, University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich
“Rolf Jucker has made a valiant attempt to review six key issues which have landed us where we are, and need deeper understanding to help us find a way out and forward. These are, using my crude descriptors: Vision (ways of seeing), Science (ways of knowing), Religion (ways of being), Population (ways of relating), Democracy (ways of deciding) and Learning (ways of changing), contentious I know. His main thrust is to ask us to be scientific in our examination of our beliefs, myths and culturally held views, to question our vision. He asks for our slow, careful and systematic critical consideration and action. He uses sources from an 18 page bibliography in this short powerful 140 page book. I was happy to see Ambedkar B, Arendt H, Bateson G, Capra F, Chomsky N, Diamond J, Harari Y, Kahneman D, Klein N, Lenton T, Margulis L, Meadows D, Peters S, Popper K, Rosling H, Rovelli C, Senge P, Shiva V, Sterling S, Thunberg G, to give you just 20 in this wonderfully eclectic truth seeking mix viewed by a rational scientific mindset trying to map out the territory. In my friend Peter Horton’s take, how do we get from NEDOHI (the never-ending drama of human interest) to IGWAJAS (in Gaia we are just another species)? Do we really want to? As Donella Meadows comments in “Thinking in Systems”, there are no easy answers, no quick fix, we don’t really understand all the feedback loops and information flow in non-linear systems well enough to predict outcomes with any certainty. Think of trophic cascades, weather forecasting, nuclear fusion, COVID-19. Prepare to be surprised. Do we get to choose between Zardoz and Soylent Green or something else? What will self-organisation and emergence bring? Rolf Jucker’s timely little book might stir you up a bit.”
Retired Senior Lecturer in Education, the College of St Mark and St John’s, UK
“From climate change to education, this book offers a great introduction to topics that will only become more important in the coming years. It also serves as a great starting point for doing further research as it always points to more material on the topics it discusses. I recommended this book to a couple of my friends, and we ended up having many interesting conversations on the discussed issues, for example on overpopulation.”
Student, Leipzig, Germany
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