Thinking about the way that things could go wrong is useful when we start thinking ecologically in terms of systems and complexity; unsuspected connections and feedbacks, interaction of supposedly separate systems, and so on.

Linear thinking, with understood and simple causal connections, is helpful but its not always enough. In recognizing complexity, we can recognize that ‘things’ frequently get out of control.

So let us suppose we have a solution to a problem. This is a list to point us to what may happen, if we don’t think about it. The list is almost certainly incomplete.

“that something is a good idea is not enough…”

  • It can be feasible, but we don’t put enough energy into it to do it in time needed or avaiable.
  • It can be feasible but it’s much harder than we think.
  • It may be feasible and succeeds, but it does not do enough.
  • It may be feasible and succeeds, but disrupts other systems we think are not connected to it
  • It can be feasible but powerful people and institutions attempt to undermine its possibility, so we have a political problem as well as an ‘engineering’ problem.
  • It can be feasible but normally non-powerful people unite against it as it disturbs them, or they have not been consulted, or they face problems you are ignoring.
  • It may be feasible, but fighting for it distracts our attention from significant problems, either to do with it, or to do with the rest of the world. (As when fighting against climate change distracts us from other ecological challenges.)
  • It could be feasible if we knew about, or involved, other factors that we currently either don’t know or think are irrelevant.
  • It could be feasible but the way we are organising it’s implementation is not helpful or destructive to its aims.
  • It can be infeasible to begin with.
  • It may not be compatible with our expectations of what it will do.
  • It can have unintended effects which make the situation worse, but we don’t know about them until its deployed.
  • It can be successful at first and then fail.
  • It can succeed.