Encyclopedia of Sustainability in Higher Education

2019 Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho

Complexity Theory Living Systems and Sustainable Development

  • Aaron W. KadochEmail author
  • Joy Kcenia O’NeilEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-11352-0_248


The definition of Complexity Theory Living Systems and Sustainable Development is built on the confluence of ways of knowing, being and acting in the world an approach to solve fragmentation of problems. An evolutionary emergence of solutions for solving complex sustainability problems is build from matter, form and processes towards creating interconnections forming a whole living systems pattern.


The world which brings consciousness into existence becomes the world of that consciousness. -Jean Paul Sartre (Friere 1970, p. 251)

What bonus or increment of knowing follows from combining information from two or more sources? (Bateson 1979, p. 67)

In order to present definitions or frameworks for understanding literature on epistemological (systems of knowing), ontological (ways of being), and onto-epistemological (quantum entangled) relationships between living systems and sustainable development, complexity theoriesprovide such methodologies as windows into...


Complexity theory Entropy Thermodynamics Living systems theory evolution Cognition Educational theory Environments Communication Learning theory Sustainability Sustainable development 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alexander C (1977) A pattern language: towns, buildings, construction/Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, with Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Aristotle (1943) On man in the universe (Introduction by Louise Ropes Loomis, Translation of Metaphysics, by John Henry MacMahon). Walter J. Black, RoslynGoogle Scholar
  3. Asimov I (1963) The genetic code. Orion Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Barad K (2003) Posthumanist performativity: toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs 28(3):801–831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bateson G (1972) Steps to an ecology of mind; collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Chandler Pub. Co, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  6. Bateson G (1979) Mind and nature: a necessary Unity. E.P. Dutton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauerlain M (2011) The digital divide: arguments for and against Facebook, Google, texting, and the age of social networking. Penguin Group, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Bee RL (1974) Patterns and processes; an introduction to anthropological strategies for the study of sociocultural change. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Bohm D (1992) Thought as a system. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Bonan G, Doney S (2018) Climate, ecosystems, and planetary futures: the challenge to predict life in earth system models. Science 359(6375):533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Capra F (2002) The hidden connections. Anchor Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Capra F, Luisi P (2016) The systems view of life: a unifying vision. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Chandler D (2007) Semiotics: the basics. Routledge, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Colquhoun A (1967) Typology and design method. Arena J Archit Assoc (June). Republished in Jencks C, Baird G (1969) Meaning in architecture. George Braziller, New York, pp 11–14Google Scholar
  15. Cooper SB, Leeuwen JVL (2013) Alan Turing: his work and impact. Elsevier, WalthamGoogle Scholar
  16. Cronin L, Walker S (2016) Origin of life. Beyond Prebiotic Chem Sci (New York, NY) 352(6290):1174–1175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Curlee W (2010) Complexity theory and project management. Wiley, ChichesterCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Darwin C (1958) The origin of species. Penguin Books, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  19. Davis B, Sumara D (1997) Cognition, Complexity, and Teacher Education. Harvard Educational Review 67(1):105–125Google Scholar
  20. Davis B, Sumara D (2000) Curriculum forms: On the assumed shapes of knowing and knowledge. Journal of Curriculum Studies 32(6):821–845Google Scholar
  21. Davis B, Sumara D (2003) Why Aren’t They Getting This? Working through the regressive myths of constructivist pedagogy. Teaching Education 14(2):123–140Google Scholar
  22. Davis B, Sumara D (2008) Complexity as a theory of education. Transl Curric Inq 5(2):33–44Google Scholar
  23. Davis B, Sumara D, Luce Kapler R (2000) Engaging Minds: Learning and Teaching in a Complex World. Mahwah, NJ: ErlbaumGoogle Scholar
  24. Doll WE, Fleener MJ, St. Julien J (2005) In: Doll WE et al (eds) Chaos, complexity, curriculum and culture: a conversation. P. Lang, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Duranti A (2009) Linguistic anthropology: a reader. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  26. Eco U (1986) Semiotics and the philosophy of language. First Midland book ed., Advances in semiotics. Indiana University Press, BloomingtonGoogle Scholar
  27. Einstein A (2004) Relativity: the special and the general theory (trans: Lawson RW; introduced by Roger Penrose). Folio Society, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Freire P (1970) Pedagogy of the oppressed (trans: Bergman Ramos M). Herder and Herder, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Gharibyan H, Penna R (2013) Are entangled particles connected by wormholes? Support for the ER=EPR conjecture from entropy inequalities. Phys Rev D 89(2014):066001Google Scholar
  30. Gombrich EH (1963) Meditations on a hobby horse and other essays on art. Phaidon Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Gruenewald D (2004) A Foucauldian analysis of environmental education: toward the socioecological challenge of the earth charter. Curric Inq 34(1):71–107.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-873X.2004.00281.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hanson R (2017) Mass communication. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. Hawken P (2007) Blessed unrest. Viking Penguin, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Hawking S (1998) A brief history of time/Stephen Hawking, Updated and expanded tenth anniversary edition. ed. Bantam Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. Hawking S, Mlodinow L (2010) The grand design. Bantam Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Heron J (1992) Feeling and personhood: psychology in another key. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  37. Jamison A (2001) The making of green knowledge. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Janicke M, Weidner H (1997) National environmental policies- a comparative study of capacity building. Springer Verlag, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  39. Jickling B, Sterling S (2016) Post-sustainability and environmental education. Palgrave studies in education and the environment series. Springer, ChamGoogle Scholar
  40. Jickling B, Wals AEJ (2008) Globalization and environmental education: looking beyond sustainable development. J Curric Stud 40(1):1–21.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00220270701684667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kitada T, DiAndreth B, Teague B, Weiss R (2018) Programming gene and engineered cell therapies with synthetic biology. Science (New York, NY) 359(6376):651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kurzweil R (2006) The singularity is near: when humans transcend biology. Penguin, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Lave J, Wenger E (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Li T, York J (1975) Period three implies chaos. Am Math Mon 82:985–992CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Light R (2008) Complex learning theory – its epistemology and its assumptions about learning: implications for physical education. J Teach Phys Educ 27(1):21–37.  https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.27.1.21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lorenz E (1995) The essence of chaos. University of Washington Press, SeattleGoogle Scholar
  47. Lovelock JE, Margulis L (1974) Atmospheric homeostasis by and for the biosphere: the Gaia hypothesis. Tellus Ser A Stockh: Int Meteorol Inst 26(1–2):2–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lu Y, Jenkins A, Ferrier RC, Bailey M, Gordon IJ, Song S, … Zhang Z (2015) Addressing China’s grand challenge of achieving food security while ensuring environmental sustainability. Sci Adv 1(1). 2015Google Scholar
  49. Lucretius T (1977) The nature of things (trans: Copley FO). W.W. Norton & Company, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  50. Lukasik SJ (2011) Why the Arpanet was built. Ann Hist Comput, IEEE 33(3):4–21.  https://doi.org/10.1109/MAHC.2010.11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mason M (2008) Complexity theory and the philosophy of education. Special Issue of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Wiley-Blackwell, MaldenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Mathews KM, White MC, Long RG (1999) Why study the complexity sciences in the social sciences? Hum Relat 52(4):439–462Google Scholar
  53. Maturana HR, Varela FJ (1980) Autopoiesis and cognition: the realization of the living. With a Preface to “Autopoiesis” by Sir Stafford Beer. Boston studies in the philosophy of science, vol 42Google Scholar
  54. Maturana RH, Dávila Yáñez X, Ramírez Muñoz S (2016) Cultural-biology: systemic consequences of our evolutionary natural drift as molecular autopoietic systems. Found Sci 21(4):631–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mcinerney DM, Mcinerney V (1998) The goals of schooling in culturally diverse classrooms. Clearing House: J Educ Strateg, Issues Ideas 71(6):363–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Meyer SC (2009) Signature in the cell. Harper Collins, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  57. Morowitz H (1992) Beginnings of cellular life: Metabolism recapitulates biogenesis (Bio-origins series). Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  58. Mumford L (1961) The city in history: its origins, its transformations, and its prospects. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, YorkGoogle Scholar
  59. O’Neil JK (2015) “Cooking to learn” while “learning to cook”: (be)coming and (re)membering sustainability (doctoral dissertation). ProQuest LLC. (UMI Number 3705566)Google Scholar
  60. Orr D (1992) Ecological literacy: education and the transition to a postmodern world. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  61. Plato (1937) The Apology, Phaedo, and Crito of Plato (trans: Jowett B). P.F. Collier & Son Corporation, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  62. Polanyi M (1958) Personal knowledge; towards a post-critical philosophy. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  63. Pretty J (2003) Social capital and the collective management of resources. Science (Washington) 302(5652):1912–1914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Prigogine I, Stengers I (1984) Order out of chaos: man’s new dialogue with nature. Review. The Globe and Mail (Index-only), p E17. July 28Google Scholar
  65. Rapaport A (1990) The meaning of the built environment. The University of Arizona Press, TucsonGoogle Scholar
  66. Rees W (2010) Whats blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial. Sustain: Sci Pract Pol 6(2):13–13Google Scholar
  67. Ruskin J (1913) The seven lamps of architecture. J.M. Dent, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  68. Selman AL (1990) Complexity theory retrospective: in honor of juris Hartmanis on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday. Structure in complexity theory conference. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Stacey RD (1995) The science of complexity: an alternate perspective for strategic change. Strateg Manag J 16:477–495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sterling S (2011) Transformative learning and sustainability: sketching the conceptual ground. Teaching and learning in higher education. Issue 5Google Scholar
  71. Unesco (2017) Education for sustainable development goals: learning objectives. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Paris. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/igo/Google Scholar
  72. Uphoff N (2003) Higher yields with fewer external inputs? The system of rice intensification and potential contributions to agricultural sustainability. Int J Agric Sustain 1(1):38–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Van Patten JJ (1991) The socio-cultural foundations of education and the evolution of education policies in the United States. Edwin Mellen Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  74. Varela F (1999) Present–time consciousness. J Conscious Stud 6(2–3):111–140Google Scholar
  75. Venturi R (2002) Complexity and contradiction in architecture. Museum of Modern Art in association with the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, New York (Distributed in the United States and Canada by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers)Google Scholar
  76. Von Humboldt W (1971) Linguistic variability and intellectual development (trans: Buck GC, Raven FA). University of Pennsylvania Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  77. Waldrop M (1992) Complexity: the emerging science on the edge of order and chaos. Simon and Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  78. Wheatley M (1993) Chaos and complexity; what can science teach us. (Keynote Address) OD PractitionerGoogle Scholar
  79. Wilson EO (1998) Consilience: the unity of knowledge. Alfred A Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  80. Young M (1990) Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education, College of Professional StudiesThe University of Wisconsin Stevens PointStevens PointUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Joy Kcenia O'Neil
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Wisconsin Stevens PointStevens PointUSA