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Reading and understanding behavior in systems

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It is a matter of simple arithmetic. If we already use 40% of our total land surface and 70% of our fresh water to produce our food, if agriculture is already the main driver for deforestation and biodiversity loss, poverty, child labor, and forced labor, then it is self-evident that we cannot simply double our agricultural output while continuing to do business as usual. Something fundamental has to change. We have to do better in a radically smarter, more efficient, and more sustainable way than ever before. This must happen on the largest systemic scale imaginable. And we have less than 40 years to do it.

But before you can change a system structurally you need to understand why the system functions the way it does. You need to understand the rules of the game first before you can change them. And for this we first need to learn how to look, read, and understand systems. The facts don't lie. Our global agricultural system is the most important, the most critical, and by far the most unsustainable system we have. The question is, of course, why is the agricultural system failing? Why is the growing and trade of the most important product on earth not leading to prosperity, development, and wellbeing, but to poverty and ecosystem destruction instead? And why can't we stop this? The answers to these questions have to do with the way we have organized our agricultural system. The underlying drivers of that system ensure that unsustainable behavior is in many cases the natural outcome.
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Keywords: business management; choice and selection; commons theory; conditions for change; food systems; innovation; leadership; market transformation; sustainable agriculture; sustainable food production; systems

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2014

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