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Environmental and Natural Resource Group Meeting

A Monthly Meeting for Reviewing and Discussing System Thinking and Systems Dynamics presentations from Students and Practitioners on the topics of Energy, Water, Land Use (Agriculture & Food), and the Environment.

For the Month of April this meeting will be held at 7pm Eastern Time to better serve the Asian Community

Justin Connolly from
“An Overview on En-Roads and a Discussion on its Ability to Move People to Act”

Submit a proposed presentation at

Joseph M. Londa
SDS Environmental SIG Leader

Engaging Younger Audiences in Climate Change Education

11 am NY | 4 pm London | 12 am Beijing | Time Converter

Engaging Younger Audiences in Climate Change Education. A Bathtub Analogy.

Join us for an interactive session with Dr. Linda Booth Sweeney, a systems educator and author, as she shares innovative ways to educate children about climate change. With a recent poll indicating that 84% of parents believe children should learn about climate change, but only 45% have talked to their kids about it, this session is an opportunity to provide age-appropriate and impactful learning experiences.

While adults need age-appropriate ways to talk with children about climate change, children need opportunities to play, experiment and interact with meaningful content to learn and retain ideas. They also need analogies that “ stick” and provide them with a sense of agency.

In this session, you will learn how to use the analogy of a bathtub to help children understand the complexities of climate change and inspire action. You will explore the following learning outcomes:

  • Understanding the basics of climate change dynamics through the THINK LIKE A BATHTUB video created for COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.
  • Engaging students with an interactive, augmented reality THINK LIKE A BATHTUB app designed as a hands-on educational tool to demonstrate their understanding.
  • Experimenting with experiential games from Linda’s book, The Climate Change Playbook.
  • Accessing climate bathtub-related resources and journal articles to further educate yourself and your students.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to enhance your skills and make a positive impact on future generations.

About the Speaker

Linda Booth Sweeney is a learning expert who specializes in complex systems. In her Systems Leadership Labs, Linda works to give leaders space to think differently, and to experiment with language, visuals, tools, and knowledge architecture that better mirrors the complexity they are navigating. Linda co-founded Toggle Labs, a metaverse education studio, in 2018 to offer people of all ages immersive, learn/do opportunities to work with complex systems and co-create healthier futures. She is co-author of The Systems Thinking Playbook, The Climate Change Playbook, and numerous other books and journal articles. Linda also has a passion for writing children’s books. Her next book, Apart Together, is a child’s first book of system thinking and will be published by Balzer & Bray in September 2023. For more on Linda’s work, see on systems visit, and for her work on children’s education.

Environmental and Natural Resource Group Meeting

A Monthly Meeting for Reviewing and Discussing System Thinking and Systems Dynamics presentations from Students and Practitioners on the topics of Energy, Water, Land Use (Agriculture & Food), and the Environment.

Topics to be added in advance of the meeting or submit a proposed presentation

Contact – Joseph M. Londa
SDS Environmental SIG Leader



Climate Cafe – Feedback Loops On Tuesday, November 15th at 6:30 pm our topic will be the award-winning short film series Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops.
Richard Gere narrates these 5 short but critically important films that explain how environmental feedback loops work and why they’re important to understand if we are to successfully address global warming.
Their creators – Bonnie Waltch, former WGBH Senior Series Producer for NOVA, and Melanie Wallace, Emmy award-winning film producer – will introduce us to the films and answer your questions. (Note: because our Cafes are 1 hour the entire films will not be shown, but you can watch them by clicking HERE).
You’ll also learn about a project our District Environmental Action Group is developing to get these films and materials out to clubs and individuals. Climate Cafe – Feedback Loops

Fossil fuel emissions from human activity are driving up Earth’s temperature—yet something else is at work. The warming has set in motion nature’s own feedback loops which are raising temperatures even higher. The urgent question is: Are we approaching a point of no return, leading to an uninhabitable Earth, or do we have the vision and will to slow, halt, and reverse them?

Join them as former PBS producer Melanie Wallace and freelance filmmaker Bonnie Waltch discuss their series of five short films focused on climate feedback loops. Narrated by Richard Gere, the programs explain in detail how environmental feedback loops work and why they’re important to understand if we are to successfully address the warming of our planet. Bonnie & Melanie’s mission is to offer teachers around the world these educational films and supporting materials for free.

Top 10 Tips to Engage People with a System Dynamics Model

Top 10 Tips to Engage People with a System Dynamics Model

Andrew P. Jones is Co-Founder and Co-Director of Climate Interactive and a Research Affiliate at MIT Sloan. Andrew is an expert on climate change and energy issues, a prominent System Dynamics modeler, and a keynote speaker.

In his webinar with System Dynamics Society, Jones presented his 10+1 tips to engage people with a System Dynamics model. Here’s a summary of the tips, but you can watch the recording below for all details!

All Seminar Series are free for members of the Society. Join us today and unlock all benefits!

1. Make it a challenging adventure on their terms in your virtual world
Make your model playful to entice curiosity about what it tests. This is a virtual world where people will experience something new. The challenging adventure or game is what we do mostly with the interface of the model. If you open the En-ROADS interface, you will see two main graphs, the main output, and several sliders. When playing with the sliders, your changes will be reflected in the graphs. Avoid telling people: “I’m going to show you how to do this”, instead, try saying: “On your terms, you’re going to have to figure out how to get that graph down to your target line”

“We do NOT model systems. We model problems.

2. Focus on mental models you want to improve
We do NOT model systems. We model problems. In System Dynamics, we define a problem as a behavior over time, a reference mode that we’re curious about why does it behave like that. We’re so curious about the problem that we develop a simulation to understand it. We build interfaces to improve the mental models of the stakeholders or clients. System Dynamics modelers know that mostly the mental models of decision-makers don’t match with the real world and how the actual system behaves. We don’t build interfaces to give access to policy levers in the system, but we are trying to leverage the necessary mental model improvements.

3. Make participants mentally simulate before running a scenario
If people don’t have a theory, they don’t notice the mental model they use to forecast what’s going to happen. Then they don’t get to learn and improve their understanding. Therefore, you must encourage people to anticipate, based on their own theories, what’s going to happen when running a scenario. No theory, no learning.” (Edward Deming)

“Tell people what to look at, let them guess what they are going to see, and then make it exciting like a movie”

4. Create a dynamic visual experience
Humans like to see change and it is important to employ this fact to get people to run and look at your graphs without losing their focus. Make people think and anticipate and then direct their eyes to what you want them to notice. If you do this well, you don’t even need to draw a Causal Loop Diagram because they are drawing it in their heads. Tell people what to look at, let them guess what they are going to see, and then make it exciting like a movie.

5. Set up participants to talk with each other
People learn socially and with hot-button issues like climate change, they need to know that their friends are not going to hate them if they change their minds. You need people to be processing the information collectively and socially with others. When presenting your model, stop frequently and advise: “Turn to the person next to you and discuss what you think of that conclusion”.

“Keep the discussion on improving system performance not on the tool you’re using”

6. Know along the way that you are playing at least seven roles

Try to present your model with the help of, at least, another person. Ideally, you need someone to facilitate the discussion while another runs the model. As a facilitator, you will be playing four roles including:

Coach – Helping participants to extract insights out of the model.
Professor – Teaching the audience theories and sharing factual information
Playwright – Creating an emotional journey of ups and downs.
Fellow Traveler – Being authentic, vulnerable, and just another person trying to solve a complex problem. If it is worth making a model about, it’s very important. If it is very important, you must deeply care about it.

You want the conversation to be around how to solve a complex problem together and what your audience is going to do about it. Keep the discussion on improving system performance not on “oh that’s a cool model how did you make that”. That’s all side information.

You want to minimize your roles in:
Tech – you must keep the conversation on improving the system performance, not the way or tool you have used to develop the model or create the graphs
Advocate – when people disagree with you, your job is not to fight them or disagree with them back, but to set up others to find the voice of your work.
Defender – Don’t get involved in the fight of “YOU HAVE A BAD MODEL!”. Avoid this fight as much as you can.

Read the article “Teamwork in Group Model Building” on the System Dynamics Review for more insights on strategies for efficient and effective model building in groups.

7. Build confidence and share testing as needed

You can share your tests and comparisons to other models and/or predictions to build stronger confidence. For instance, Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan built the En-ROADS with the best science available, using the data sources such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and International Energy Agency. All the assumptions are available open-source in the 400-page reference guide. Many of the assumptions that someone might not believe in are changeable within the model. Several models do not have good literature of other scenarios to compare against, while En-ROADS can be compared with six integrated assessment models to build confidence.

8. Use loops and stock/flow diagrams only to illuminate
As you help people improve their intuition, sometimes you need to use loops and stock/flow diagrams, especially if you are presenting to a more technical audience but always connect it to the simulator. Avoid showing this to policymakers, they are usually not interested in the loops, instead, tell a story about reinforcing or balancing feedback.

9. Make space for feelings and processing

Deliver your presentation with excitement and intensity, but you need to slam on the brakes and let participants compromise with their feelings and do the necessary processing. You may create a scenario of success, and they get to create their vision, something that they would love to see. And it’s time to slam on the brakes and may invite them to 60 seconds of silence. Yes! It is weird but imagine 60 seconds of silence of people sitting with a scenario of success.

“Create the conditions where people are open to changing their minds”

10. Pay attention to three legs of the learning stool
Reflective Conversation – Create the conditions where people are open to changing their minds, surfacing and testing assumptions, and talking to their peers about improving their assumptions. You’ve got to make the space where people are open to being wrong and thinking differently.

Vision – Help people see a future that they fall in love with they just want it so badly that they see the gap between the vision they want and the reality that they feel and experience that tension in between. Orient towards what one genuinely cares about.

Systems Thinking – Explaining how a complex system works where time, cause, and effect are distant in time and space can be difficult, especially when you include stocks, flows, feedback loops, and other inner relationships. You can learn how to facilitate a training that uses systems thinking and System Dynamics for free with Climate Interactive learning resources

10 + 1. Give them the simulator

People need your help as a facilitator, but you must give them something to play with that naturally gives them the mental model improvements that you want and guides them towards committing themselves to action to improve system performance. As Buckminster Fuller states “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”

Watch the recording below

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System Dynamics for Climate Change Mitigation

Integrated System Dynamics models of economy and environment have long been used for research and decision support for sustainability problems, starting with the seminal work of World Dynamics and Limits to Growth. In this seminar, we will discuss how such models support decision-making, stakeholder, and public engagement for climate change and sustainability problems. We will reflect on existing models and tools, such as Climate Interactive’s En-ROADS and Millennium Institute’s iSDG tool, and their use cases. We’ll also be discussing how the Climate Change Initiative at UMass Lowell uses System Dynamics tools to raise awareness on climate change.

With Juliette Rooney-Varga, Carolyn McCarthy, Sibel Eker, and Steve Arquitt

About the Presenters

Climate Interactive is an independent, not-for-profit think-tank that grew out of MIT Sloan in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Based on a long tradition of system dynamics modeling, our simulations and insights help people see connections, play out scenarios, and see what works to address climate change, inequity, and related issues like energy, health, and food.

Dr. Sibel Eker is currently a Senior Researcher at Climate Interactive and a Research Scholar at International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria. Her interdisciplinary research profile combines systems analysis and engineering, decision sciences, and social sciences, and her work brings systems thinking and uncertainty focus to climate change and sustainability problems with model-based approaches. Complementing her academic experience, she has worked with several stakeholders and policy actors such as UK DBEIS, World Bank, EIT-Climate KIC, governmental and private organizations. Dr. Eker obtained her Ph.D. degree in 2016, from Delft University of Technology, with a focus on dealing with uncertainties in the Dutch natural gas sector. Prior to joining IIASA, she worked at University College London on integrated decision making in housing, energy, and well-being; and at the Delft University of Technology on the resilience of the transport network in Bangladesh.

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, officially adopted by 193 countries, are envisioned as the world’s pathway to a sustainable future. The Goals are ambitious but the resources to achieve them are few. System dynamics models can help planners identify effective and cost-efficient combinations of interventions for progress toward the Goals. This presentation describes the Integrated Sustainable Development Goal (iSDG) model and its use in participatory planning for the SDGs.

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Juliette N. Rooney-Varga is an expert on climate change and sustainability. She is the Director of the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative and associate professor of Environmental Science.

Carolyn McCarthy is a Program Associate at the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative where she develops and researches the learning impacts of simulation-based curriculum for low-income and first-generation-in-college students. Having previously guided strategic planning processes for cross-sector collaborative networks, her main interests are in the practical applications of systems thinking problem-solving for collective action. Carolyn earned a Master of Philosophy in System Dynamics at the University of Bergen, Norway, and a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree from the University of Vermont in Global Studies, Spanish, and Dance.