Rural System's

Q-Related Systems Theory

Taking A Systems Approach : The Wildlife Resource and other Rural Resources

I was taught by many respected sources to think "study of ..." when in encountered "... ology." Wildlife biology seems limiting to me for it, being important, is only about study. "Ecology" although widely and improperly used in the press and elsewhere, still summons from me notions of study. "Wildlife management ", admittedly having to study and use studies, is a topic of control, of regulated change, of action to achieve a stated objective. But even these two words are erroneous. The modern wildlife manager does not want (necessarily) to manage animal populations but to change the benefits potentially derived from them. Animals as seen by the wildlife manager are a resource. Resources, distilled from many easily-forgotten introductory university classes, are "the total means or assets available (typically grouped as goods or services and including facilities, labor, and armaments and raw material) for economic, political, and other development for increasing production, profit, or well-being." A resource is a fundamental economic concept. It is a physical entity or a service that may produce human benefits. Each resource is dynamic, changing in the major dimensions of :

All resources -- forests, water, soil, wildlife, or minerals - have the same four elements. They are means to human ends.

A Systems Approach

Wildlife resource management (or perhaps some day rural system management) is an approach, a paradigm, a scheme, a large pattern of operation. How "get it all together" is a serious, major question. Some people, some groups, do it, and do it better (by several criteria) than others. The characteristics of those who do it best should be learned and copied. I believe from studies and evidence that a systems approach is useful. General systems theory is basic to the approach. If not the best approach, it suggests a challenge to all interested to present an equal or better approach, one with all of its characteristics and comparisons.

Overlap and interactionThe systems approach invariably includes six major concepts or parts: inputs, processes, objectives, feedbacks, feedforward, and context. I have been discussing, above, the context. There needs to be some named, "pointed-at" thing that can be examined and perhaps managed as a system. A systems approach to wildlife management has two fundamental actions, analysis and design. Analysis implies describing, taking apart, detailing, investigating, and measuring. Design, with overlaps that occur throughout all human descriptive efforts, implies developing , planning, prescribing, supervising, implementing, and managing.

Managers design
To design requires having or stating objectives. Managers design. They start with objectives. Objectives are criteria for "goodness." Criteria are the essence of epistemology (also known as criteriology). Modern managers do not start analyses with "problems." Problems exist in the gap between objectives and the actual situation.

There are seven types of objectives. "Goals" and "objectives" may be viewed as synonymous in light of the identified types. There is no more time to be wasted in elaborate lenghty, usually wasteful, discussions of the differences in meaning between goals and objectives. Types explain past conflicts in the means of these words. Suggestion: Use objectives throughout.

The seven types are: General, Fundamental, Success Criteria, Constraints (or Policies), Primary, Action-like, and Futuristic.

Maximizing present-discounted value is in primary use throughout natural resource fields. It is a Type 3 objective.

Where monetary values are difficult to get, maximizing a benefit-to-cost (B/C) ratio is useful.

Express benefits using

       P  I   T
B = Sum Sum Sum DVES(R)

summation is from 1 to the total in each category of publics, objectives, and years, and
D = demand for each ith unit
V = value assigned a unit (relative importance)
E = expectation = (1-Risk)
S = substitutability
R = minimum variety constraint
P = total number of human populations or publics
I = the total number of objectives
T = time (total years in a planning period)

Express costs, C, as the total present discounted cost of any and all activities, programs, and projects over the planning period.

To maximize R is a reasonable basis for deciding on when a manager is doing well. Promotion, praise, and raises can be based on R* where

R* = [1.0 - (Ra - Rd) / Rd] x 100

Ra is the actual score; Rd is the stated desired condition; R* is the system "score" which, being perfect, may reach 100.

An alternative view (isomorphic with the above) is the negative feedback equation:

Qt + 1 = Q - (1-k)(Qt -Q )

Where Q is the desired state (e.g., 2361 units produced per year), Qt the current production, Qt + 1 the next production (usually next year) and k is the amount of control (e.g., 0.05) a manager can have over reducing the difference. The value of k can be composed of techniques, budget, time, workers, etc.

Wildlife and other wildland resources have characteristics that are fundamental:

Another perspective, a way of grouping objectives and resources, is that of the 5 E's:

(Formerly item 25) A resource is an economic concept. It is a physical entity or a service that may produce human benefits. Each resource is dynamic, changing in relation to these 4 components listed above in item 23. All resources, forests, water, minerals have the same 4 elements.

If economics is the study of and activities related to the allocation of scarce resources (all of them) then wildlife management is a subset of economies. Finance is a subset of economics. It is related only to money.

Wildlife that cannot be reached has no benefits (or certainly very few) to humans. (The "existence value" argument says that there are values simply in knowing of the existence of animals). Variety also relates to the space component of a resource. By analogy, having eaten a half gallon of vanilla ice cream, there is little interest in another half-gallon of the same ... but maybe another flavor.

A resource by definition is related to benefits. In modern wildlife work, few people realize that benefits are non-linearly related to population size.

"Ecosystem management" like "conservation biology" are imprecise titles that do not reflect the major essential elements of resource management other than those called environmental or ecological, namely economics, esthetics (including ethics), energetics, and enforcement.

Generally it can be considered that the following are rules or the principles of a systems approach for use in managing human spaces:

  1. Start at the end.
  2. All systems are subsystems
  3. Most things are systems; if they do not appear to be so it may be your perception, not the system itself
  4. Outputs can be inputs
  5. There is power in isomorphism
  6. Most relations are non-linear
  7. Natural systems are simple and nonlinear
  8. Ecosystems models are non-parsimonious
  9. Beware the threshold
  10. You cannot know
  11. You cannot validate; only invalidate
  12. Be skeptical of skepticism
  13. Parts are numerous; relations more so
  14. The fundamental task: master the hyperspace
  15. Feedback is isomorphic with feedforward
  16. Boundary problems cause the systems approach and others to fail
  17. Master synergism.
  18. Factors operate non-linearly
  19. Natural systems are non-linear
  20. Natural systems are multidimensional
  21. Natural systems are chaotic
  22. Select or define the performance measure quickly
  23. Select one of the 5 E's to start, include all 5 (ecology, energetics, esthetics, econolics, enforcement
  24. Learn the megafactor
  25. Categories are used by teachers more than by field people
  26. Split out the types of objectives
  27. Use heuristic convergence (multiple epistemological bases)
  28. Graph and think in 3+D
  29. Change the constraints
  30. Use magic numbers
  31. Use a decision pattern, correct it
  32. Use confidence, precision, and accuracy rationally
  33. Wastes can be made to become raw input to other systems
  34. Work for economies of scale
  35. There are multiple pathways to the same energetically sound end-state.


April 1, 2005