chapter  15
12 Pages

Living with the Big Picture: A Systems Approach to Citizenship of a Complex Planet

The idea of global citizenship may conjure up many images but it would be difficult to dissociate it from both people and the planet Earth. However, reconciling the different priorities that people attach to issues of human society and welfare with the qualities and constraints of our physical and biological environment is easier said than done. In our experience there has been a tendency among those who focus on global issues to polarise between human and non-human dimensions, often with little recognition and understanding that the two ends of the spectrum are now interdependent (Smyth, 1995). Against this background, becoming a citizen of the globe, with the inference that individuals take responsibility for the effects of their actions, seems an immensely challenging goal. Human behaviour is much less governed than that of other inhabitants of the Earth by patterns laid down by natural selection and adjusted by fine-tuning to their particular environment during a relatively standardised process of development. Humans have capacities to adapt the environment to their own perception of needs. Skills are required to be able to understand how 'the wood' as well as 'the trees' is faring, to understand the interrelationships and to know whether, when and how to intervene, or to stop intervening.