Design Brief: Visualize interconnections and interdependencies related to large-scale, socio-technical problems which are impacting Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.
Team members: Tay Aras, Raymond Pai, Zee Salman, Caroline Song, Yoshi Torralva
(Course: Systems, Spring 2019)
The "wicked problem" my group chose to analyze was the declining population of pollinators (specifically focusing on bees) in Western Pennsylvania. The process consisted of preliminary research, initial mapping and visualizing, identifying intervention points, and finally synthesizing our findings into a single map (shown below).
Initial research & mess mapping
The first step we took in familiarizing ourselves with our "wicked problem" was mess mapping utilizing the information we already had about Colony Collapse Disorder and the decline of pollinators.
As shown in the left image, in our initial mapping, we were mostly concerned with identifying the major causes and effects of our wicked problem, as well as drawing direct and indirect connections between them.
On the right, on the other hand, is our refined mess map, which we put together after compiling more extensive research.
Our next step required taking a look at the stakeholders that play a role in the decline of pollinators, whether it be those directly or indirectly contributing to the problem, or those trying to alleviate the problem. We also determined which stakeholders had social, political, economic, and environmental motivations, which would ultimately become the general framework for our entire map.
Identifying intervention points
Once we had the skeleton of our map developed, we utilized a Three Horizons model to start developing a timeline of change with regards to the declining population of pollinators. In the map shown below, we wanted to predict which factors (social, political, economic, and environmental) would have to increase and which would have to decrease in order for pollinators to regain a self-sustaining population. In creating this map, we were then able to pinpoint the major changes that we predict need to occur in order to solve this wicked problem.
Based on our extensive research and horizon mapping, we came up with three primary intervention points ranging in scale and impact, following Donella Meadows' 12 leverage points. The intervention points we came up with were as follows:
1. Sustainable Urbanization Behaviors (leverage point 9: Constants, parameters, and numbers): Sustainable urbanization can occur both on a small scale and a large scale. Small scale change would likely begin with simpler policies or procedures, including allowing room for local honey vendors to sell in larger scale stores or markets, or raising awareness for local honey during allergy season. On a larger scale, sustainable urbanization would involve mandating protected land (land that cannot be built on), or adjusting building codes to accommodate native plants or bee-friendly spaces.
2. Bee Lobbying (leverage point 3: Distribution of power over rules of the system): To give a voice to the Bee population in Pittsburgh, and the United States, forming a lobbyist group to communicate with different levels of government would be beneficial. The purpose of a LobBEEyst group is to advocate for the Bee wellness in honey production and pollination in policy making and educational sectors. LoBEEyst's would promote initiatives that interact with people in Congress to provide Bees with a more significant stake in environmental laws. In Pittsburgh, LobBEEyst's would link federal government news, related to bees, to community members. Furthermore, a feedback loop will occur between multiple levels of government specifically related to increasing the Bee populations. A positive feedback loop is adding Bee related amendments—even new laws—and a negative feedback loop is not advocating for officials that don't promote environmental change.
3. Education (leverage points 6 & 2: Information flow & mindset): Pesticide companies have long argued that pesticides are necessary for the production of foods. However, a 2017 study done by the United Nations has shown that this is blatantly false, and that they instead have “catastrophic impacts on the environment and human health.” Another study done in France has shown that lower pesticide and insecticide use does not have a significant impact on the profitability of the majority of farms. The biggest reason that farms still use a mass amount of pesticides and insecticides is due to the spread of misinformation by pesticide and insecticide companies. For many farmers, the only information they get about how to protect their plants from pests comes from seed and pesticide manufacturers, which is heavily biased. Educating farmers about potential alternatives to pesticides and educating them on the risks of pesticide overuse would go a long way in dropping pesticide use, and in turn, bee deaths from pesticides and insecticides.
Putting it all together
After compiling our research, mess maps, and stakeholder maps, our last step was visualizing a cohesive poster that could easily communicate the information we gathered to a viewer unfamiliar with the issue. Our final map, shown below, utilizes various rings going from the broadest, most direct causes of the problem to the most specific, indirect stakeholders as you move from the core of the honeycomb outwards. Within each ring, the small bees show both direct and indirect pathways between social, political, economic, and environmental factors to show how they are almost always connected. Lastly, we mapped where our three intervention points fell on the map based on the scale and predicted impact of each intervention.