The class spent the year visiting local officials, business owners and non-profit organizations in our community to learn about government and civics and dived deep into the role that the Puget Sound plays in our community, learning about water as a resource, tracing stormwater outlets, thinking about the effects of humans on local water systems, and visiting local science-based organizations to learn about the life that exists in the water right next to us.
Students were asked to reflect on questions like:
- What is a system?
- What makes up a system?
- What kinds of systems are involved in our daily lives?
- How is a community a system?
- How is ecology or marine biology part of a system?
A system is a set of things, people or businesses working together to create an interconnected network. A city is a system. It is made up of people that connect with each other. The citizens create a living environment for other citizens by making businesses or organizations. These businesses and organizations rely on citizens in order to sustain themselves. A city, town, or any other place with humans requires a smaller system in order to sustain the bigger one. A currency system is one of the most important systems in a civilization. Without money, nobody can live. Food, water, clothing, shelter, and so much more are bought with money. People make businesses where you can buy those things with money. Systems are an important part of life, and without them, pretty much nothing would exist.
Now, I am taking the example of a human population for all of this, but this could apply to anything. Like a system of nonprofit organizations to help the environment by connecting with each other. Or the system of life, where there are predators killing prey. Even a Rube Goldberg Machine could be considered as a system. It ends up performing a big operation, like putting a marble in a bin using smaller operations, like a toy car hitting a wooden ball into a button. Looking at recent events, I could explain that COVID-19 is also a system. It spreads, therefore interconnects when someone gives the virus to another. There are systems for everything, even very small things.
When you think of a system, you might think of the life system, or the water system. However, not all systems are as simple and easy to comprehend as these. A quick complex system that comes to mind is the economic system. The economy is an elaborate web of sadness and anguish but also joy and false happiness. The only reason there can be such a difference between the two is the wealth gap, a scary, bad system. Overall, though, a system basically is just some continuous thing that happens that uses multiple people or things to operate.
A system is not always made of the same components. Some simple systems compile of a few steps that cycle on and on for eternity. For example, the water treatment facility. Human waste comes in, the nasty pulp gets processed into Tagro™, and the water from the pulp obviously gets purified into drinking water. The Tagro™ gets food grown from it, the now cleaned wastewater gets drunk (NOT under the influence of alcohol, digested), the food and water go into the human, and so on. More complex systems can follow different routes. Difficult and complicated systems occur more than you think in your normal life.
Around us, there are countless systems happening at this instant. Many of them we witness are easy to recognize, like the judicial system or the sewer system. There is also a large amount of them that we do not. For example, the shopping system. You probably have bought something once in your life, but never really noticed how advanced just buying items is. If the item is from a farmer’s market, odds are that the vendor was the original producer of the product. However, if you bought a cabbage from a grocery store, they had to buy it from a farmer before selling it to you. If the store you bought the cabbage from is still in business, you know that they ripped you off. If they bought it from a farmer and sold it to you at the same cost that they bought it for, they would not make a profit.
Community is a great example of a complex system. The fact that the population is growing at all is deep. In the far past, one person would die for every birth, meaning that the population would stay constant. Eventually, more people were born a year than those who died. This birth-death rate went exponentially up and is still going up today. However, scientists predict that the human population will top out at 10,000,000,000 people. This sounds rather daunting, but it is actually quite a relief, since any more humans could make the earth unable to sustain us anymore.
A car whizzes by on the road near your house. Two robins fly from the tip of a tree, one with a worm in its beak. You may not realize it, but you are watching multiple systems at work right where you live. Whether it’s the food chain, ecosystem, transportation system or many more, all systems have one thing in common: they are all composed of many parts working together as a whole. Take, for example, our government. The government is composed of three groups, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. We need all three branches to support our nation. Or the ecosystem, every species matters, some more than others, but if you take to many of them out the whole thing collapses.
A system is like a tower, built with blocks. By removing one block, not much will happen, but if you start to remove tens and hundreds of blocks, even if you take the ones off of the top, eventually you will be left with nothing. Just look at the ecosystem itself. We are taking out forest after forest, species after species. The system of our earth is starting to fall apart and research shows that if we continue to do this, the earth might no longer be a thing. Just like if you take too many blocks out of a tower. Every system needs its parts, like how a community needs its people. Though is a community a system itself? It has many systems within in, but does that mean anything? The Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition of a community is "A unified body of individuals." A group of people that are linked together to form a whole, just like a system. A community also works together, just like a system.
Systems are everywhere and almost everything is part of a system in some way. Systems are the foundations for almost everything, including other systems, and if one system is destroyed many will follow. Systems are all important whether they are big, like the universe, or small, like an animal’s digestive system, and absolutely nothing would exist without them.