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Edward J. Garrity

Mental Models, Survivability, and the Addictive Loop: The Need for System Balance to Achieve our UN Sustainable Development Goals

Humanity has developed multiple, complex systems that work in concert to support our economic system and provide a healthy standard of living for billions of people. Worldwide industrial activity has lifted billions out of poverty and generated great wealth for many (Rosling, 2018). However, despite the success of our economic system the world has driven past many of our ecological limits and we now face environmental crises in many areas that threaten our very long-run survival. Specifically, climate change now threatens humanity as we have a limited amount of time to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels (Figueres, 2017). This paper explores our citizen mental models and our prevailing attitudes that help shape our major public policy and economic goals. We show how disaster and tragedy can result based on our actions. We present a rationale to show how success leads to failure in a short-run dominated system. However, by changing our mental models we show how planned, local failures can lead to success in a wise long-run dominated system. To change citizen mental models, educational institutions at all levels will need stress science and systems concepts, promote social justice, reflection, and a wider view of the world. In summary, liberal arts colleges and Jesuit institutions are well suited to promote the necessary perspectives and wider mental models needed to transform our world and meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.