Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Book: Thinking in Systems

A manuscript by Donella Meadows, the lead author of 1972's Limits to Growth, was published in August as a new book on systems theory called Thinking in Systems: A Primer. It's a posthumous publication (Meadows died in 2001) edited by Diana Wright of the Sustainability Institute.

"In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet— Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.

Meadows’ newly released manuscript, Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life."

It's in paperback and available at Canadian booksellers for about $17.00.

Meadow's article, "Places to Intervene in a System" was first published in Whole Earth magazine in 1997, but received little attention. It is available to download here, reprinted by the software developer blog, Software developers picked up on her theory because it has implications for software modelling of complex systems.

UPDATE: I just read "Places to Intervene in a System" and I have to tell you, if you don't have the time or inclination to read anything else about systems theory, you should just read this article. It's 19 pages long, and it's the most brilliant analysis of how to pragmatically change systems, and fundamentally, how they work.


  1. There's another web page called "Systems Thinking: A Primer". It's not Meadow's work, but a piece developed for CEO training. It's loaded with political statements that most of us would disagree with, BUT it is a good synopsis of systems modelling.

  2. Thank you for the review of THINKING IN SYSTEMS. The book is published by Chelsea Green, who also publish Rob Hopkins' The Transition Handbook.
    For more information,
    All Chelsea Green books are available in Canada through your bookstore.