Thinking in Systems Online Exhibition

This is the 9th What’s Next for Earth online exhibition based on Think Resilience,
a free online course by the Post Carbon Institute.

“In the previous nine videos we explored the interrelated crises of the twenty-first century. As we saw, these are not simple problems, and they can’t be solved with simple technical adjustments. They are systemic issues. Understanding and responding to them intelligently requires us to think systemically. Well, systems thinking emerged in science during the latter part of the twentieth century. Previously, it was often assumed that we could understand systems simply by analyzing their parts. However, it gradually became apparent—in practical fields from medicine to wildlife management to business management—that this often led to unintended consequences.”

– Richard Heinberg


Nadine Marie Allan (US), Fateme Banishoeib, Susan Bercu (US), Marianne Bickett (US), Christina Conklin (US), Alison Lee Cousland (Australia), Yvonne C. Espinoza (US), Michele Guieu (US), Terri Hughes-Oelrich (US), Petra Jelinek (US), Ka (US), Pascal Ken (France), Michalina W. Klasik (Poland), Ana Martinez Orizondo (US), Quin de la Mer (US), Eric Meyer (France), Liz Miller Kovacs (Germany), Suzette Marie Martin (US), Mona Naess (Norway), Meredith Nemirov (US and Spain), Tessa Teixeira (South Africa), Marcela Villaseñor (US), Michelle Waters (US), Eileen Wold (US).


Rivers Feed The Trees #479

Acryla Gouache on historic topo map 13.5" x 17" x 1.5"

A watershed is an entire river system. The interconnectedness of a forest root system. The Mycorrhizal network underground. " It's important to understand that this is the natural way of seeing the world. We intuitively know that systems are more than the sum of their parts."
  • Meredith Nemirov

From the Hypothetical Artifacts series

Art Direction: Cyrina Hadad @cyrinecia

“Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces change” – Milton Friedman. In the series ‘Hypothetical Artifacts’ (2018-2020), I imagined a future where humans hadn’t made any fundamental change in their habits consumption. I merged my body with inhospitable landscapes without considering the discomfort or sustainability of my position. The photos serve as documentation of the fragility of life.
  • Liz Miller Kovacs

What’s for Dinner?

Acrylic on canvas

Speciesism is a system of thought that humans are superior to non-human animals so we have an inherent right to exploit them. This ideology is at the heart of our detachment from and destruction of the natural world. It's well-documented that animal agriculture is a top source of greenhouse gas emissions, the largest user of fresh water, and a major cause of wildlife extinction and habitat destruction.  Humans and the animals we eat now account for 96% of mammal biomass, with wild animals only accounting for 4%. The same goes for birds, which is one of the main reasons wild bird populations are crashing. Our species has destroyed 83% of wild mammals. The standard American diet of lots of meat, dairy, and eggs is not sustainable for anyone, humans included.
  • Michelle Waters

Ephemeral Art Celebrating Smallness

Symbiosis Relationships in Nature
Mosses and Lichens, Flannel Flowers and Flax Lily seeds

Ephemeral Art Celebrating Smallness Symbiosis Relationships in Nature Mosses and Lichens, Flannel Flowers and Flax Lily seeds ‘Lichens have no roots, no leaves, no flowers. They thrive in places where there is no soil and settle on granite. Lichens blur the definition of what it is to be an individual because they are not one being, but two: A fungus and an algae. Different as can be, yet they are joined in a symbiosis so close that their union becomes a whole new organism. It is like a marriage, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The balance of giving and taking is dynamic, the roles of giver and taker shifting from moment to moment. Their shared lives benefit the whole ecosystem.’ ~Robin Wall Kimmerer: Braiding Sweetgrass. ‘Fungi are eating rock, making soil, digesting pollutants, nourishing and killing plants, surviving in space, inducing visions, producing food, making medicines, manipulating animal behavior, and influencing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere.’ ~Merlin Sheldrake. Entangled Life. ‘There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks. About light and shadow and the drift of continents. This is what has been called the dialectic of moss on stone: An interface of immensity and minuteness, of past and present, softness and hardness, stillness and vibrancy, yin and yang.' ~Robin Wall Kimmerer. Gathering Moss.
  • Alison Lee Cousland

Found Object Sculpture

9"x 4" x 3"
Sticks, moss, dried flower, copper wire, used light bulb, thread, burnt embroidery hoop

" order to address systemic problems, we need to understand what systems are, and how to intervene most effectively." This is the first chapter of Part 2, Making Change, in Richard Heinberg's Resiliency Program through the @postcarboninstitute. System thinking is not a bandaid approach like "putting chemicals in the Earth's atmosphere to manage solar radiation, rather it is about reducing fossil fuel consumption while capturing atmospheric carbon in regenerated topsoils." "If we really want to address a deeply rooted, systemic problem like climate change, we may need to look at our society's most fundamental paradigms...." Dr. Heinberg goes on and discusses the importance of Innovators, and early adopters. Then comes early majority, late majority, and laggards in terms of the process of change. "...the greatest opportunities for significant change may be where diffusion and crisis meet, and where intervention is at a highly leveraged point within the social system." My small found object sculpture represents a fusion of human ingenuity/ideas/innovation and natural materials that are sustainably sourced to create energy. We made it to the moon and contemplate Mars... don't tell me we don't have what it takes to solve our current dilemma. Thanks to Dr. Heinberg for his courageous trailblazing into a new era.
  • Marianne Bickett

Clod of Earth

drawing, object

I drew a clod of Earth and framed it in the shape of an isosceles cross, thinking about how different our world would look if Earth was our religion.
  • Michalina W. Klasik

Reverberations I (diptych)

Soft and pan pastels on two panels of 19 x 25 shizen paper

My first artwork of 2022 is part of my tree stories series and, in some way, is the second book, or a new chapter. Not sure yet… but all I know is that it is a new beginning.  This piece references concepts of trans-form(ation), cause and effect, and time in development. It is also my submission to the @whatsnextforearth Thinking in Systems art call.“We intuitively know that systems are more than the sum of their parts. But digging deeper into the insights of systems theory—going beyond the basics—can pay great dividends both in our understanding of the world and in our strategic effectiveness at making positive change happen.”
  • Ana Martinez Orizondo

From the Collapse Collage series

Using a recent issue of the “How to Spend It” magazine that comes with the Financial Times, I looked for pieces of our living world, putting each in relationship to the others and to geological time. I was thinking about polycentricity and new models of power relations — and that was challenging to find in HTSI, but not impossible!! Formally it was fun to align (aline?!) some of the image lines with the strata of sedimentary rock. I debated whether to highlight or obscure the fold at the center, but decided something about the “spread” aspect of it felt curious in a good way. This one confounded me for a long time, so I ended up taking a more intuitive than planned approach in the end.
  • Christina Conklin

Cyanotype making at the River Tyne

Cyanotype on paper

Thinking in systems brought me back to Corbridge and the River Tyne. The Cyanotype in progress is 30 feet long 4 feet wide. Rather than painting the entire paper with the UV light-sensitive coating, I chose to use frenetic actions that moved the liquid across the paper. Visually the result is very like the plant life around the river bank. Dogs and birds are proving to be big participants!
  • Quin de la Mer

Tide pools

cyanotype prints on paper and fabric,
January 2022

To prepare for this contribution to the @whatsnextforearth art call, I spent many hours walking in nature thinking about systems. The more I contemplated climate change and a way toward solutions to this global predicament, the easier it was to see the many life forms that exist because their systems are healthy. The answer seemed to fall into place with ease when I imagined our global climate as a system and climate change a systemic problem. Ideas took shape beginning with the @postcarboninstitute notion “reducing fossil fuel consumption while capturing and storing atmospheric carbon in regenerated topsoils” and grew into a systems approach for every environmental problem I could think of. I decided to go to Tynemouth beach and revisit the tide pools there. Tide pools feel like such perfect systems and my heart opens with joy when I am near them. I took paper and fabric coated with UV light-sensitive chemicals and placed them around the tide pools. From dawn till dusk with a snowfall at midday, they collaborated with the North Sea, winter’s light, and other-than-human neighbors to create a visual message in support of thinking in systems.
  • Quin de la Mer

Sacred Links I

Photograph - acrylic paint - Polka

In the age of darkness, connecting the sacred links.
  • Pascal Ken

Square Meters

Reflective aluminum metal posts inscribed with words that contemplate systems of sustainability stand in the corners of implied square meters in the landscape.

Notating each planetary square meter of 100-year-old mature forest needed to act as the carbon sink for each gallon of oil we burn, the square meters create intimate physical spaces that shrink these global relationships of equivalency down to human scale. Examining ideas of balance between industrial and natural systems we rely on; they highlight the contradictory human desire to both produce and conserve. 3 square meters are currently on view @unison_arts In New York as part of the Owning Earth outdoor sculpture exhibition.
  • Eileen Wold

From the Material Evolutions series

Repurposed costume jewelry and fabric on stretched canvas
6" x 6"

In the biological world, the edges of ecosystems where one system meets another are called an ecotone. It’s the place where things evolve, adapt, collide, or interact. It’s the place where all the “action” happens. The activity at the boundaries (and their various states of permeability) is where the inputs, outputs, feedback all occur. Systems are inside us. We are part of our own systems. Our systems share edges. All of our systems are part of larger systems. How do fences make good neighbors? Read more about the Material Evolutions series here.
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza


Photograph, Fall 2021.

How can we work together to imagine a healthier relationship between us and other agents in bio-diverse ecosystems (in other words, between humans and the natural world)? Can our needs (food, health) and choices work synergistically with ecological systems for a sustainable future? “Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world” -Nadeem Aslam in The Wasted Vigil.
  • Petra Jelinek

A Natural Way of Seeing the World

Ephemeral assemblage made of driftwood
L35” x W25” x H30"

The more I learn about our predicament; the more complex things appear to be. Given the mess we face, it is tempting to try to find “solutions” for each of the problems we have. But one solution may well create yet another problem. Interconnections, interdependence, systems within systems, are everywhere in the natural world, so “it’s important to understand that Thinking in Systems is a natural way of seeing the world” (Richard Heinberg). “At a time when the world is more messy, more crowded, more interconnected, more interdependent, and more rapidly changing than ever before, the more ways of seeing, the better. The systems-thinking lens allows us to reclaim our intuition about whole systems and • hone our abilities to understand parts • see interconnections, • ask “what-if ” questions about possible future behaviors, and • be creative and courageous about system redesign. Then we can use our insights to make a difference in ourselves and our world.” (Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems)
  • Michele Guieu

See the Connections

Ephemeral assemblage
Made at my childhood house, at the foot of the Alps in Southern France, with driftwood found on the nearby shore.
December 2021.

Spending time learning about our predicament has been an essential aspect of my life during the past few years. Richard Heinberg helped me make sense of what is at stake. Things are much more complicated than we usually think and more complex than what the media lead us to believe. If you want to understand, listen to a podcast where specialists have the time to express their thoughts, read their books. Once you know, your life is not the same. I am grateful to work for @mahbglobal, within a like-minded community, and to have created @whatsnextforearth, whose goal is to empower people with vital knowledge. “If you want to have an accurate picture of the world, it’s vital to pay attention to the connections between things. That means thinking in systems. Evidence of failure to think in systems is all around us, and there is no better example than the field of economics, which treats the environment as simply a pile of resources to be plundered rather than as the living and necessary context in which the economy is grounded. No healthy ecosystems, no economy. This single crucial failure of economic theory has made it far more difficult for most people, and especially businesspeople and policy makers, to understand our sustainability dilemma or do much about it. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the field in which systems thinking is most highly developed is ecology—the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments. Since it is a study of relationships rather than things in isolation, ecology is inherently systems-oriented.” Excerpt from “Systems Thinking, Critical Thinking, and Personal Resilience” by Richard Heinberg
  • Michele Guieu

I am the reef

watercolor, ink, acrylic/collage on paper
18in x 24 in

Born in the same brine where all life would surge, my bones will scatter, too soon, on your bleached coral bed. The same sun melts my heart and yours in the furious flame lit by the match of the insatiable human species. Post Carbon Institute’s “Thinking in Systems” emphasizes the reality of the interconnectedness of everything. My art is a warning of the dangers of the increasing decline of coral reefs, which are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. “The world’s largest coral reef system- the Great Barrier Reef, … has lost half of its coral in the past two years because of extreme heat stress from global warming.” @earthorg
  • Susan Bercu

Soft sculpture collage

made from natural pigment remnants saved over the past year of making things.
Meant to be interacted with and petted.

I struggle with my obsession to create physical objects in a world that already has too much, so I try to be as mindful as I can of the materials I choose. From the start of any project I think about its life cycle and intentionally plan what I make it out of so that I can maximize reuse. For this collage, I used old wires saved from my temporary installations, fabric scraps from my upcycling projects, and all my test papers from making botanical paints. Thinking in this way has created a kind of system in the way I make things. A thriving system needs to be reflective of our organic world. Directed yet flexible, diverse yet cohesive.
  • Nadine Marie Allan

War on Nature

Acrylic painting on Belgium canvas

Reflects on the challenge to move away from burning fossils fuels, for energy consumption without inadvertently creating bigger unintended social crisis problems/ consequences. The global climate is a system, therefore Climate change is a systemic challenge, that requires systems thinking approach, that doesn’t only address the symptoms, but intuitively intervening at a highly leveraged point within the social system, knowing that systems are more than the sum of their parts. Economist Milton Friedman believes ‘Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change’.
  • Tessa Teixeira

Expulsion from Eden V. 2.

Details and studio view (with preliminary studies.)
New series in progress

The fiery background in this painting has handwritten excerpts from the 2021 IPPC report on climate change, a report filled with undeniable evidence for human-caused climate breakdown as the earth’s intertwined systems of atmosphere, soil, oceans, and ice reinforce and escalate the speed and severity of disastrous global consequences in feedback loops among these systems. The myth of humanity being expelled from the garden of paradise seems an apt metaphor as our actual earthly garden faces the very real cumulative and ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, with the consequences of warming atmosphere and oceans, melting polar ice and permafrost, altered jet stream, and thermohaline circulation systems.
  • Suzette Marie Martin


Oil on board 18x24

Sometimes I wish for a less complex world. Everything feels wrong. This can't be the best system we could have made. Yet so many don't or aren't able to question it. I dream of something different while trapped in it. Things that I value seem at odds with survival in what man has created.
  • KA

Imbrications en transparence I & II
Transparent nestings I & II

Peintures sur papier, superposition numériquePaintings on paper, digital overlay

Parce que chaque création découle toujours un peu de la précédente et préfigure la suivante, parce qu'il ne s'agit finalement que d'un ensemble en mouvement, de pièces en connexion. Because each creation always follows a little from the previous one and prefigures the next one, because it is ultimately only a moving whole, of connected parts.
  • Eric Meyer

A system of visual, words, inquiries

Mixed media on paper and words to invite us to feel and sense systems before we can think of new systems.

Like waves flooding the castle of illusion heART desires screaming to make a r-evolution colors’ waves kissed the canvas drawing the flowing system. What would change if we would sense first then think and only afterward act in a more whole (systemic) way? What systems would change if sensing - thinking - acting were regarded as equals? What new systems would blossom from through integration?
  • Fateme Banishoeib

Terri Hugues Oelrich – Dirt, Soil, Clay, Sand

photomontage, photos Terri Hughes-Oelrich

There's something so special about walking on dirt that makes me feel closer to nature and happier. While walking on the earth, I find all sorts of interesting things. Each of these things makes me think, wonder, and question more complicated systems. I will keep walking.
  • Terri Hughes-Oelrich

700 years

Digital video

Recycling buildings is a permanent dynamic between destruction and construction. “Policies worldwide recognize that the construction sector needs to take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, tackle the climate crisis, and limit resource depletion, with a focus on adopting a circular economy approach in construction to ensure the sustainable use of construction materials The practices at the core of a circular economy, such as repairing, recycling, refurbishing, or repurposing, are equally novel. All of these strategies have the aim of keeping materials in use – whether as objects or as their raw components – for as long as possible. And all are hardly revolutionary.” Maikel Kuijpers
  • Marcela Villaseñor

The Thinking in Systems exhibition is based on Think Resilience, the Post Carbon Institute’s free online course. To respond to the art call, we asked the artists to signup and to watch the course, one lesson/video at a time. Each video is approximately 12 minutes long.

[Lesson 1: Introduction to the course]

CHAPTER 1: Our Converging Crises

CHAPTER 2: The Roots and Results of Our Crises

CHAPTER 3: Making Change

CHAPTER 4: Resilience Thinking

  • Lesson 13 – What is Resilience?
  • Lesson 14 – Community Resilience in the 21st Century
  • Lesson 15 – Six Foundations for Building Community Resilience

CHAPTER 5: Economy and Society

  • Lesson 16- How Globalization Undermines Resilience
  • Lesson 17- Economic Relocalization
  • Lesson 18- Social Justice
  • Lesson 19- Education

CHAPTER 6: Basic Needs and Functions

  • Lesson 20- Meeting Essential Community Needs
  • Lesson 21- Resilience in Major Sectors
  • Lesson 22- Review, Assessment & Action

Think Resilience is hosted by Richard Heinberg, one of the world’s leading experts on the urgency and challenges of moving society away from fossil fuels.

We live in a time of tremendous political, environmental, and economic upheaval. What should we do? Think Resilience is an online course offered by Post Carbon Institute to help you get started on doing something. It features twenty-two video lectures—about four hours total—by Richard Heinberg, one of the world’s foremost experts on the urgency and challenges of transitioning society away from fossil fuels. Think Resilience is rooted in Post Carbon Institute’s years of work in energy literacy and community resilience. It packs a lot of information into four hours, and by the end of the course you’ll have a good start on two important skills:

1. How to make sense of the complex challenges society now faces. What are the underlying, systemic forces at play? What brought us to this place? Acting without this understanding is like putting a bandage on a life-threatening injury.

2. How to build community resilience. While we must also act in our individual lives and as national and global citizens, building the resilience of our communities is an essential response to the 21st century’s multiple sustainability crises.

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