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Sustainability- Homelessness In Australia -Highways Vs. Train Lines - Assessment Answer

December 26, 2017
Author : Ashley Simons

Solution Code: 1ABBJ

Question:Sustainability

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Sustainability Assignment

Assignment Task

‘Systems thinking is critical in developing solutions to sustainability challenges.’

To what extent do you agree with this statement, and why? Draw on one of the following wicked problems to illustrate your answer:

  • Homelessness in Australia
  • Highways vs. train lines

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Solution:

Introduction

System thinking is a widely used phenomenon in developing solutions to a variety of problems. System thinking is defined as a part of management discipline that enables the understanding of a system with examination of the interactions between various components of a system. In this context the systems thinking will be critically analysed for its relevance in solving the problems related to sustainability(Tutytens & Devos, 2012). The wicked problem to be discussed here is related to highways vs. train lines. Wicked problems are the ones that have numerous interacting systems – ecological, social and economic .This is the topic of debate since many years because some experts suggest that train lines are sustainable while some of them suggest that highways are more sustainable(Beer, 2011). Sustainability is a term that is used to refer to the aspects that are not harmful to the natural resources or the environment and the ones that support long-term ecological balance. The essay aims to discuss the relevance of systems thinking in solving the problem of highway vs. train lines. To address this issue the essay will first of all discuss the criticality of systems thinking and then it will discuss about the wicked problem that is highway vs. train lines. This will be done using literature sources and theory backup. Thus the ultimate objective of this essay is to answer the question to the statement after careful interrogation into the various aspects.

Problem of highway vs. train line

The propaganda over highway vs. train line is continuing since decades but no conclusion has been found yet. There is a myth among a number of people and policy framers that a train line costs lesser, is faster, safer , use less fuel, have more capacity and most importantly it is kinder to the environment than that of highways(Cote, 2012). But these myths do not have any basis and it is surprisingly a baseless claim. This claim is based on a comparison between these two.

Following are the key comparisons between a highway and a train line:

  • The expenditure on train is divided by tonne-km or passenger km gives unit costs that are almost six times higher than that of a strategic highway network. This clears the air that train line is cheaper than a highway. This also suggests that sustainability perspective is lower in train line (Haines, 2012).
  • A dedicated highway lane has almost four times the capacity of a railway track that is single. This can be explained with the help of an example of train line and highway. A contra-flow lane at Melbourne’s bus terminal is the best example to quote here. This can carry 700 buses that have 45 seats in the peak hour and thus it offers around 30,000 seats. On the other hand the 30,000 passengers arriving at railway station main line in the peak hour will require at least four inbound tracks and that too wider enough like a bus lane (Arnold, 2015).

The above comparisons make it very clear that a railway line is not at all cheaper than that of a high way. At the same time the studies also show that the number of people travelling with means of transport related to highway is much more than the number of people using railway line. This signifies that the profit that may be earned using railway line would be lesser than the profit that can be earned using a highway means of transport. The major aspect of discussion with respect to these two sources of transportation is that which of them is environment friendly. To ascertain the sustainability it is very important to consider many other factors such as usage of natural resources, effects on environment, etc. (Banson, Nguyen, & Bosch, 2014).There have been a number of researches on these two topics to know their impacts on environment and also to know whether they are sustainable at all. A number of theories and concepts are being applied to ascertain this but so far a conclusion to which everyone can agree has not been arrived. This makes it important to understand this using different viewpoint and ascertain which of the two is sustainable. In this manner the issues related to the highway and train lines may be solved with the help of systems thinking. The systems thinking might help to interlink all the aspects with each other and thus developing solutions for this wicked problem might also be possible.

Sustainability issues and highway vs. train line

A question mark on the sustainability of highway vs. train line has bothered many environmentalists and policy makers since long time. As it has been discussed earlier that sustainability is a term that is used to refer to the aspects that are not harmful to the natural resources or the environment and the ones that support long-term ecological balance(Tomaiin, 2015). It is a matter of discussion that which of the two means that are highway and train line support long term ecological balance. Both the means are harmful for the natural environment and resources. To build a highway or a train line a number of trees are cut down, natural habitat of animals and plants get affected and water bodies are affected and this ultimately lead to affecting the ecological balance.

It can be seen that both of them are non-sustainable and this is why here it shall be ascertained that which of them is more sustainable. Again this is a long debated topic since decades. There is a lack of social and environmental aspects in these two means of transport. A sustainable project is the one that is also profitable along with nature friendly. As far as the sustainability of a highway is concerned there are various issues such as cutting of trees, use of fuels that are non-renewable, cutting forests, extensive labour , use of air polluting machines to build highways, etc. are only a few issues related to the sustainability of highways (Langstrand, 2016). There is no doubt that they are profitable but for many stakeholders it is fatal. This is the major reason why this is considered as an aspect on non-sustainability. Same is the case with train line there are again various issues such as cutting of trees, use of fuels that are non-renewable, cutting forests, extensive labour, use of air polluting machines to build railway tracks, etc. In this manner it becomes very difficult to decide which one of these two is more sustainable. This is why systems theory will be used to determine whether a solution can be developed about this sustainability challenge or not.

Role of systems thinking in developing solution

Systems thinking take into consideration all the aspects that are directly or indirectly related to a problem. Due to that many scholars are of the opinion that systems thinking may also makes it critical to come to a conclusion at the time of problem solving. In this case if systems thinking will be used to develop solution to the wicked problem then first of all a figure is prepared using systems thinking. The figure given below consists of many aspects such as highway capacity, air pollution, health risk, travel time, desired travel time, traffic volume, trips per day, public transport patronage, etc. This creates a huge network and makes it really difficult to come to a solution(Fugi, Kaiser, & Tanner, 2015). This is a reason why systems thinking are considered to be critical to develop solutions for sustainability. The systems theory suggests that the parts of the systems must be related otherwise there will be really two systems. T is also true that a system can overlap with another system. In this manner the sustainability problem with highway can be solved only if all the elements are known (Walker, 2016).

Systems thinking approach for sustainability issue with highway

Similarly the train line also has various issues and the ultimate issue here is also the pollution. Now if systems thinking is used to solve the problem and make it sustainable then there is no chance that a sustainable solution can be found. This is because of the fact that a system receives input from a wider environment and sends out also to a wider environment. A system is formed up of processes and it thus transforms inputs into outputs (Kordova, 2016).

System thinking is thus a manner in which one can understand the world and it is a process that helps in organising information so as to understand the complexity of the problem. The hallmark of systems thinking is that it tends to focus on relationships and connections than that of components. This implies that system thinking is crucial in solving the problem of sustainability such as train line vs. highway because no problem can exist in isolation and these problems are a part of larger interacting systems. Here the assumptions of systems thinking can work very well(Arif, 2016). To come up with the solution one must think about the disadvantages of the train line as well as highways and then link them to the elements of social, economic and ecological aspects. This will then require interlinking all the elements of the system and tracking the changes. System thinking has helped in developing solution to many sustainability challenges such as ocean pollution, floods, etc. But in this case it is quite difficult to come to a solution because both the aspects that are train lines and roads are log debated topics of being non-sustainable. Another reason is that while using systems thinking to solve this problem no-one understands each other’s’ thinking and due to that coming to a single solution becomes next to impossible. While using systems thinking it will also be impossible to review the performance and due to that the progress of development of solution can’t be tracked. This implies that the key performance indicators can be set but cannot be measured. It shall be noted that the solutions can only be developed if key performance indicators are achieved. In this case key performance indicators for highway or train line can’t be developed. This clearly suggests that problem of sustainability cannot be solved using systems thinking (Davis, 2015).

Agree with statement or not?

The statement is totally correct that system thinking is critical in developing solution to sustainability issue of highway vs. train line. The major reason is that system thinking is too overwhelming with the trait that it tends to provide nig picture and does not focus on the details. The system thinking appears to be all inclusive whereas it is not. These are only a few reasons why we can claim that system thinking may not be able to develop solution for this wicked problem(Banson, Nguyen, & Bosch, 2014). It also argued by many researchers that system thinking is more towards descriptive rather than being practical. In this way the statement is true that system thinking is critical in developing solution to sustainability issues.

Conclusion

System thinking is a very great aspect to deal with many problems and it has helped a number of strategists and policy makers to take optimum decisions. As far as developing solutions for sustainability is concerned using systems thinking then there are various issues to this. Highway vs. train line is a very critical issue of sustainability and systems thinking will not be able to develop solution to this problem. The reason behind claiming this is that system thinking is way too descriptive and somehow it loses its practicality and due to that it is also not possible to set key performance indicators. Furthermore selecting one out of the two options that are train line and highway is somewhat difficult. The analysis suggests that both of these are non-sustainable. In this manner system thinking can help to a little extent to develop the solution for sustainability issue that is presented here.

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