Bay Game Assignment 3

Assignment 3: Bay Game Follow up Questions

1. According to Meadows, elements, interconnections and a function or purpose are necessary components in systems. Describe the elements, connections and/or functions or purpose in the Chesapeake Bay watershed system. Diagram the system including these elements. 

The variable parts that determine the health of the bay are myriad and highly codependent. The degree of interdependency, though evident in the playing of the game, became especially clear as I began decoding the systems of the bay for this follow-up exercise. Using the framework provided by the game, I attempted to classify each factor as either environmental, economic, or social. Harvesting Blue Crabs, for instance, is a $50 million industry (economic) that has devastated underwater habitats (environmental) while supporting the highly localized culinary traditions of the mid-Atlantic and the livelihoods of fisherman and restaurateurs alike (social). Similarly, a pigovian tax on factory runoff may reduce the level of industrial effluent entering the bay (environmental) while also reducing the net revenue of industry (economic) and/or the number of workers a particular industry can safely employ (social). To interpret the the systems of the bay in such a linear manner is futile; they must be viewed – and portrayed – only in relationship to one another, with any failure to do so being exclusionary and reductive. That in mind, environmental, economic and social considerations are fundamental to the health of the bay and its inhabitants and can be useful guides when employed effectively (non-linearly), which is why they serve as the three central nodes in my diagram.

2. Describe how your diagram and understanding have changed since your first diagram of the Chesapeake Bay watershed system. 

In the preliminary Bay Game assignment I accounted for as many variables as I could given the limited scope of my knowledge: seasonal variations in weather and temperature; the strength of the tide; local industry, effluent; traffic patterns and flows; pedestrian flows; civic activity, waterfront recreation; permeability of ground plane; level of agriculture, farming; fishing and crabbing; government regulations and taxes. Absent from these considerations is quality of life, which in many ways both contributes to and is an outgrowth of the some of the factors listed above. I have also come to recognize that integral to the success of any highly interdependent system is a relative equilibrium of its many moving parts. A failure to keep any one variable in check poses a systemic risk to the entire system.

3. How do you think delay affects the efforts to improve the health of the Bay? 

The delay acts as a balancing mechanism, preventing any one player in the bay’s dense network of systems from growing too dominant. It is valuable in its ability to limit economic development: the delay allows legislators to evaluate the type of development taking place (green or otherwise) and to adapt legislation accordingly. Similarly, it impedes environmental efforts: in the time it takes to enact legislation, environmentally degradative activities are allowed to persist. In this way, the delay is a microcosm of the merits and failures of a democratic system of governance.

4. What was your perceived understanding of the goal/s of the game? Did you think the overall goal/s “fit” with your goals as a stakeholder and citizen? Describe how your understanding of the goal/s affected your actions within the game?

The goal of the game as I perceive it is to improve the health of the bay while facilitating economic growth and promoting social well-being. The purpose of the game, as distinct from this, is to draw into relief the challenges of balancing these sometimes oppositional interests.

Over the many stages (years) of the game, changes in regulation and economy adapted to help align my financial goals with the interests of the environment: investing in green strategies yielded greater profits over time despite greater up-front costs.

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