Even if we make the slightest change within a complex system, we risk far-reaching unintended consequences.
The Precautionary Principle reflects working with and within complex systems. It focuses on waiting for more complete information before risking the possibility of damage, especially if the possible impact would have a bigger negative impact. For example, invasive species can cause native species to become extinct, therefore extreme caution is advised.
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The Precautionary Principle is not applicable:
The Precautionary Principle prompts us to question our intuitions about the right decisions. The principle was first applied to regulations in Germany for preventing air pollution. It consists of two core components in German environmental law:
When dealing with risks, we need to be aware of what we don't or can't know for sure.
How to use the Principle:
The precautionary principle refers to preventing harm by not doing anything that could have negative consequences.
It is best set out by using the proverb "better safe than sorry" or the medical motto, "first do no harm." The principle has strengths and weaknesses, and it is helpful to know the best way to use it and how we can apply it.
Looking at the rise and fall of historical civilizations, the forces that precipitate or delay a collapse can tell us about our own.
We can define collapse as a rapid and enduring loss of population, identity, and socio-economic complexity. Public services fold, and chaos ensues as the government loses control.
Some past civilizations recovered, such as the Chinese and Egyptian. Other collapses were permanent. Sometimes the epicenter is revived, such as Rome. In other cases, they are left abandoned, as was the case with the Mayan ruins.
There are many situations and disastrous circumstances where impulsive and emotional solutions are applied, which apparently solve the problem but unintentionally create new problems or collateral damage that may be worse. This is known as The Law Of Unintended Consequences.
Example: The Forest Service rapidly extinguished forest fires as soon as they erupted, causing larger, more severe forest fires due to an abundance of unburned deadwood spread all over.
People often confuse risk with uncertainty. But the terms "risk" and "uncertainty" do not refer to the same thing.
The more you understand a system, the more able you are to convert uncertainty into risk.
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