Lagoon or Rice?

This is a map of where the lagoon would end up being. It also shows how much would be taken over by different amounts of rain

When you think of engineering, I can almost guarantee that your mind does not go directly to education. That is unless you are thinking of the schooling required to become one. The same goes for systems thinking. When I heard the definition of systems thinking presented in ABE 100 as well as ABE 199, my mind immediately made the connection to engineering. Systems thinking is an approach to “complicated” problems that cannot be easily solved like “complex” problems by looking at the inner workings. One example we were given in class of complex versus complicated was looking at a clock and a huge crowd of people. With a clock, you can look inside and see hundreds of gears all turning to keep track of the time. It is something that a person can trace through and at least get the gist of what is going on to get to the actual time telling. The clock is a complex there can be many parts that look so busy, but in the end, we can eventually deduce what is going on. The clock also has almost no outside “variables” acting on it. At first glance I did not think of the people as a system at all, but when you think of it as a type of flow diagram, each person is imputing and outputting huge amounts of actions and reactions that in turn cause a reaction from another person creating a huge chain it is easy to see that these people are in fact in a system. A complicated system to be more specific. This is classified as a complicated system because of the way that we cannot just figure out the system by looking at it. It is always changing. People make their own decisions and that alone creates a sort of chaos that makes the system hard to understand and even harder to predict.
This is where systems thinking comes in. The process of systems thinking can be applied to almost any problem. It is a process that I believe would greatly benefit from creating a SMART goal or goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented. Smart goals are a great way to begin a system thinking project because of the way they play so well with the main attribute of systems thinking, measuring success. Measuring success is what we learned as possibly the most important part of systems thinking because how can you really tell if something is successful if you had no measurement benchmarks in the first place?
One great example of a complex problem faced not only in Puerto Rico, but also in Illinois and nearly everywhere else in the world is that of deforestation and habitat destruction. Also in Puerto Rico they face the challenge of what land to keep devoted to agriculture and what land to revert back. I think that the debate between what portions to keep agricultural and what to revert to natural is very interesting. As we learned at the Hacienda, Puerto Rico has a very attainable, specific, measurable, time-oriented goal to revert thirty-three percent of its land back to the natural environment by 2033. This is a great example of something that is completely measurable and time-oriented, but the major problem with this is where do you draw the line with agricultural land to be reverted back?
Our friend Professor Perez, introduced it with the rice problem. While he was somewhat focused on soil salinity and sodium content, he was also concerned with loosing parts of his production land to a project to bring back the natural lagoon. He figured out all kinds of proof behind the adverse effects bringing back the lagoon and how much farmland would be lost. This is a huge and complicated systems thinking problem because there are so many people involved and so many inputs into the system from the natural inputs and effects of the natural or agricultural land. Some of the measures for the quality of land after are effects on the oceans and bays from agricultural run-off which is something that Dr. Perez has already started working on, while other measures would be the satisfaction of the people around the areas of natural restoration versus. This is measure is slightly less tangible, but could be determined by the reception of the people via survey.
Overall, the benchmarks created by systems thinking will serve as great tools to measure the way that the different types of land restoration and usage effect the environment and by using the measures it will make it much easier to see how and where it is best to aim the thirty-three percent of natural land versus the necessary land for agricultural production for food crops. This will make the process of restoring the land much more effective because with the help of scientists like Dr. Perez we can research where it is best to implement restoration efforts.

One thought on “Lagoon or Rice?

  1. Systems thinking was a huge part of not only our ABE 199 class, but our other ABE 100 class as well. I think that this is such an important concept to understand because in engineering, a logical thinking process is necessary to solve many of the complex problems that we will have to resolve. The debate between whether or not the lagoon should be restored was something that I found very interesting. While Puerto Rico’s dedication to restore the island back to its natural land is fantastic, it also comes at a price, and a lot of valuable farmland could be lost if the government decides to reconstruct the lagoon. I think that we should definitely find a way to tie systems thinking into our Open House presentation, even if it’s just giving a brief explanation of it, because it was such an important part of both this class and engineering in general.

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