Theory Building

Positive Pathways report

This Cascade Institute report explores how to translate an understanding of polycrises into actionable strategies to alleviate them. It suggests ways in which polycrisis analysis can build on existing approaches to systemic change to help chart positive pathways to better futures, by examining multiple factors — the sorts of systems changes required to avoid, mitigate […]

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Causal Loop Diagrams handbook

In this handbook, Cascade Institute Polycrisis Fellow Michael Lawrence explains how to read and draw a causal loop diagrams (CLD)–a systems mapping technique that helps us to think through our mental model of a system, increase our understanding of a system, and communicate our knowledge to others. It clarifies some common sources of confusion, provides

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Understanding Polycrisis: Definitions, Applications, and Responses

This paper compares conceptualizations of the term “polycrisis,” raising questions about the key aspects of different definitions while stressing a convergence in critical features. It conceives a polycrisis as a state in which multiple, macroregional, ecologically embedded, and inexorably interconnected systems face high – and advancing – risk across socioeconomic, political, and other dimensions. After

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Let’s Avoid ‘Trigger Fixation’

The authors argue that a trigger event can’t start a crisis by itself; some underlying stress or stresses must also be operating. They contend that leaders should pay far more attention to these stresses, because they’re ultimately far more important. The original title of the article was “Let’s Avoid ‘Trigger Fixation.” The Globe and Mail

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On the ‘Polycrisis’ Part II: Philosophies of History & Crises in Political Thought

Building on an earlier post, Bo Harvey begins with the question “what might the popularity of [the term] polycrisis say about the weaknesses of current critical analyses of capitalism?” and proposes that the “conceptual breadth of both terms represents a broader crisis of reference in the concept ‘crisis’.” He then considers the role of crisis

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Why the World Feels so Unstable Right Now

Tim Palmer discusses the challenges of predicting events in nonlinear systems that, by nature, experience intermittent instabilities, as in the famous “butterfly effect”. Today, continued emissions are increasing the instabilities and uncertainties of climate change, while the economy and global health exhibit similar non-linearities. To deal with such uncertainties, he advocates ensemble prediction systems that

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On the ‘Polycrisis’ Part I: Issues in Abstract Conceptual Circumference

Bo Harvey examines origins and recent popularity of the polycrisis concept, then rebuts critiques of the concept by Noah Smith and Guney Isikara. In response to the latter, Harvey problematizes the reduction of all the world’s problems to “capitalism” by noting the wide breadth of that term. “In other words, I want to argue that

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The New Systems Reader

The New Systems Reader

Solutions to single problems are never enough when crises stem from flaws in their hosts systems. The New Systems Reader brings together thinkers and activists to propose strategies for systemic change. “The starting point for this book is the inability of the traditional politics and policy to address fundamental challenges. Our goal is not to

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Things are Different Today: The Challenge of Global Systemic Risks

The authors clarify the systemic risk concept using the Global Financial Crisis as an example. They explain how global systems involve micro and macro-dynamics interacting with each other and their environment, leading to stable periods and multiple possible future scenarios. Some of these scenarios may pose catastrophic risks, so that agents must confront systemic risk.

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