Guiding Star and Near Star in Systems Thinking

For the next module of Designing for Environmental Sustainability and Social Impact, – the free +Acumen course we are taking – The Noble Peace Tribe went deep into Systems Thinking. Way deep!

The good news is that we resurfaced with clarity on, among other things, both our guiding star (vision) and near stars (5-10 year goals):

Guiding star (vision)

A humane global system change that transcends war to 
peace, exploitation to cooperation and fear to trust*

(* Read more on this here:

We used a feedback loop approach to visualize our guiding star and got a vicious cycle about the currently ending global system, and a virtuous cycle about the humane global system change. Here, have a look at both and give us your feedback… loop (no, sorry, just your feedback):

Guiding star
VICIOUS feedback loop

Based of what we learned reading
“Terra Nova: Global Revolution and the Healing of Love,” by Dieter Duhm

The theme or story in this case is represented nicely on the following quote:

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein

Guiding star
VIRTUOUS feedback loop

Based of what we learned reading
“Terra Nova: Global Revolution and the Healing of Love,” by Dieter Duhm

Next we were to identify potential leverage points,
i.e. where to intervene to shift our system toward our guiding star?

Maybe a good leverage point to shift the whole system could come up by asking: What kind of economy would emerge if we conducted our financial processes with truth, trust, and mutual support?

However, this leverage point addresses the whole world economy system and would be – at the moment – a huge task for The Noble Peace Tribe team to take on (at least within this course ;-)). So we identified a near star – a 5 to 10 year goal as a significant step toward our guiding star – to see if that is currently within our reach of influence and expertise.

The Noble Peace Tribe team realized that we may have a handful of “near stars” on the radar, (or in our constellation?). For the sake of this course, we are going to stick with the one we presented on Module 1: The Relationship Between Poverty and the Environment (Read more on that here: Experimental Peace Research and Learning Centers), which could be summed up in the following context and challenge:


By 2050 we’ll need to feed two billion more people mostly from low-income countries and underserved communities. In a context where world hunger is on the rise, climate breakdown events are doubling and loss of animal and plant species are accelerating into what is now named “the sixth mass extinction”.


How can we feed those two billion more people while keeping the current world population well nurtured and not overloading the planet’s carrying capacity?

Based on this context and challenge, our near star to work on for the rest of this course could be phrased as follows:

Near star (5-10 year goal)

Scale up good sustainable food systems that are clean 
and fair for all, guaranteeing access to nutritious
foods and breaking the intergenerational cycle of
malnutrition in underserved communities from
low-income to high-income countries, while engaging
them into participating, and simultaneously tackling 
the three greatest challenges of our time, climate
change, pollution and biodiversity loss, and at the
same time provide a livelihood for local populations.

As previously stated, The Noble Peace Tribe team’s “project is not focused on one specific problem, such as famine, but on all problems for they all are inseparably related.”*

We are choosing to zero in on the near star because if we continue the same food system model that includes eating animals plus eggs, dairy and honey, by 2030 we will have an extremely low probability of being able to feed the world population. How would those chances increase, if we shifted from animal-based food systems to whole foods plant-based diet?

Although any plant-based food system could be perceived as the better alternative from keeping producing animals to feed humans, The Noble Peace Tribe team exhorts to consider climate resilience first and foremost throughout the decision making processes.

Climate resilience is one solution.

It is important to strengthen food systems and people’s livelihoods to anticipate and adapt to the effects of climate variability and extremes.

Addressing climate variability and extremes and their impact on food security and nutrition requires a focus on resilience. Context-specific interventions aimed at anticipating, limiting, and adapting to the effects of climate variability and extremes and building the resilience of livelihoods, food systems and nutrition to climatic shocks and stresses.

Scaled-up actions across sectors are urgently needed to strengthen the resilience of livelihoods and food systems to climate variability and extremes. Such actions should take place through integrated disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation policies, programs and practices with short-, medium- and long-term vision.

To keep reading this report click here.

NUTRITION – essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Global Nutrition Targets Revised

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in The World 2018

Full report:

Despite impressive productivity increases, there is growing evidence that conventional agricultural strategies fall short of eliminating global hunger, result in unbalanced diets that lack nutritional diversity, enhance exposure of the most vulnerable groups to volatile food prices, and fail to recognize the long-term ecological consequences of intensified agricultural systems.

There is growing recognition that forests and tree-based systems complement farmland agriculture in providing food security, contributing to dietary diversity and quality, and addressing nutritional shortfalls. Forests and tree-based systems are particularly critical for food security and nutrition for the poorest and the most vulnerable, including women.

Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition. A Global Assessment Report” and its Policy Brief, published as IUFRO World Series Volume 33 in 2015.

The UN now also acknowledges ecosystem restoration as unparalleled opportunity for job creation, food security and addressing climate change. The recently declared UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030) “aims to massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems as a proven measure to fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity.”

The National Geographic short film A forest garden with 500 edible plants could lead to a sustainable future showcases that a forest garden – even in the temperate climate of the UK – is a realistic and achievable solution to feed people, restore ecosystems and address climate change.

Before moving forward, The Noble Peace Tribe team would like to show the following lists of enabling and inhibiting forces:

Enablers and Inhibitors in our system

Next we identified important forces that impact how the system works (people, trends, events, norms, beliefs, phenomena,
institutions, laws, policies, etc.). There are enablers – positive forces in the environment, which support, encourage or increase the health and effectiveness of the system as defined in our guiding star – and inhibitors – negative forces, which undermine or prevent the health and effectiveness of the system.

These are our enablers and inhibitors to consider in establishing the best actions to follow.


  • Veganic permaculture practices
  • Tree-based food systems
  • Planting programs for fruit trees
  • Access to information about climate resilience
  • Local small-scale farmers with knowledge about sustainable farming practices
  • Local vegan/organic entrepreneurs (restaurants, health-food stores, plant-based milk production, e.g. Tarwi)
  • Vegan and veganic permaculture in the media / news
  • Popularity of environmental/vegan awareness movies (e.g. 73 cows winning BAFTA award, Cowspiracy, What the Health, …)
  • School programs on healthy, eco-conscious eating & living
  • Scientific reports/assessments on the health, environmental benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet and its importance for feeding the world and fighting world hunger
  • Global assessment of “Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition” demonstrating the importance of new governance models for forests as a food source
  • Work of vegan organizations (e.g. Vegan Society, ProVeg International, VegFund)
  • Community gardens, urban farms, farmers markets
  • Climate change – warmer conditions to grow more varieties of produce
  • Stricter regulations for animal agriculture and use of chemicals
  • Education programs on sustainable food production
  • Consumer demand for healthy sustainably-grown food
  • Incentives for farmers to preserve their land (e.g. in Paris Climate Agreements)


  • Cattle farming
  • Clearing forests for conventional agriculture 
  • Mining/gas industry providing well-paying jobs
  • Imports from other countries (e.g. apples from Chile)
  • Government subsidies for gas, cattle farming,  
  • GMOs and missing international regulations
  • Conventional farming practices (dependence on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, animal input, heavy machinery, monoculture)
  • Lack of knowledge about plant-based nutrition
  • Believe system and passed-on information about healthy nutrition (importance of meat, milk, eggs, etc.)
  • Believe system and passed-on information about best farming practices (tilling, use of fertilizers)
  • Traditional food preparation (based on animal products) 
  • Ubiquity/availability of animal-based products
  • Influence of meat / egg / dairy lobbies in promoting animal-based products (media attention)
  • Climate change  – unpredictable/extreme weather
  • Lack of capacity & resources (people, time, land) for growing produce
  • Cheap imported food of unknown production conditions
  • Popularity of processed food and marketing for it
  • Convenience to buy at big box stores (time and location)
  • Healthy food often more expensive (or perceived as more expensive) than unhealthy food —> not accessible for underserved communities

Note: We thank the Change Nudgers Team for sharing their project’s enablers and inhibitors, which have been a tremendous help to us.

Moving on to the feedback loop that has been developed to spot leverage points of action based on the enabler and inhibiting forces listed above.

Near star
VICIOUS Feedback Loop

You would imagine that after looking at this vicious feedback loop we would jump at the people involved in industrial and cattle farming for keeping with their businesses as usual, even though reports such as the following are more and more making the headlines:

Meat and dairy companies to surpass oil industry as world’s biggest polluters, report finds

Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers, a paper published in the journal Science in June 2018 found that if everyone stopped eating meat and dairy products, global farmland use could be reduced by three quarters.

Food economics: What if the world went vegan?

A recent report from the Oxford Martin Programme on the future of food estimates that changes in diets could save up to $1,000bn per year on healthcare. If the world went vegan, it could save eight million lives by 2050 and trillions of dollars.

The report states that simply cutting down meat consumption within accepted guidelines would cut emissions by a third by 2050. A widespread switch to vegetarianism would cut emissions by nearly 63 % and a similar adoption of veganism would reduce emissions by 70 %.

Source: Aljazeera

The above vicious feedback loop supported by scientific publications make you wonder why wide-spread interventions have not been launched – despite the evident global devastating effects and the overwhelmingly positive consequences for human health and the environment if we changed our diets and food production system. There is probably more to solving this challenge than meets the eye through publications. Hint: Behavior and emotional attachment. We will focus more on this in Module 4 (Behavior Change for Environmental Conservation) of our +Acumen course.

The theme we would like to take on here to identify potential leverage points falls perhaps into the category of “the road less traveled”.
The Noble Peace Tribe team would like to share the compassion, some of us claim to be directing at our fellow animals and the planet, with people that are sending close to 90 billion animals annually to the slaughterhouses. Besides their beliefs of needing to eat animals and/or fertilizing crops with animal crap and body parts, how about considering that these farmers also have bills to pay and can’t just shut down their businesses overnight and stop feeding their families or putting money aside for emergencies? It has been documented that some farmers have ethical conflicts from breeding animals to profit from their shortened life spans in order to put some money in their bank accounts and seeing ends “meat” – excuse the pun ;-).

This is the trailer of a documentary portraying such an ethical conflict of some cattle and dairy farmers (the full movie is available to watch here):

Though not yet mainstream, this movement is growing. Read more inspiring transition stories in this article about 16 former meat and dairy farmers who became vegan activists and on this website about the Ranchers in Transition Advocacy Program.

Potential Leverage Points

Considering these glimpses of hope for change we could see the following potential leverage points to shift things towards our near and guiding stars:

Leverage Point #1

  • Use reports on health & environment and the media momentum of the “73 Cows” BAFTA awarded documentary to catapult VEGAN PERMACULTURE and EDIBLE FOOD FORESTS / FOREST GARDENS / WOODLAND GARDENS / FOOD FORESTRY as the number #1 climate resilience solution for the challenge of feeding those two billion more people while keeping the current world population well nurtured and not overloading the planet’s carrying capacity, while giving an economic pathway for the industrial and animal agriculture business to shift towards the above mentioned food production alternatives.

This is a short clip from the upcoming short documentary 73 Cows, a 15-minutes documentary, directed by Alex Lockwood, about the journey of Jay Wilde, a beef farmer who battles with his conscience every time he takes his cows to slaughter. He knows he must make a change. His personal conflict leads Jay Wilde to become the first farmer in the UK to embark upon transitioning from beef farming to entirely organic plant based farming.

Some background on this story:

BBC Stories – Vegetarian beef farmer

Shot and edited by Elise Wicker

The story of Jay Wilde shows the importance of understanding the interests and needs of this particular cattle farmer and finally make sure he can make the shift to a non-exploitative and sustainable economical activity. We want to pursuit understanding the many factors and stakeholders that were involved to make this happen, so perhaps we can scale this up to as many parts of the world as possible, while including the local traditions and customs for establishing a deeper connection that brings lasting peace.

Leverage Point #2

  • Simultaneously, implement education & awareness programs and community building programs which include initiatives to train and develop plant-based price clubs, and community supported vegan permaculture and food forests.

Further references on the importance of trees and forests for food security, nutrition and to combat climate change:

Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition – A Global Assessment Report
Full report by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations

Why forests are the best ‘technology’ to stop climate change
An opinion piece by Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International

Natural climate solutions
Scientific publication in PNAS

Massive restoration of world’s forests would cancel out a decade of CO2 emissions, analysis suggests
Article by the Independent

Feed the world and keep the trees
A Research Highlight on the Nature Communications article “Exploring the biophysical option space for feeding the world without deforestation”

By successfully implementing actions on the proposed leverage points, our projections of a virtuous feedback loop would look like this:

Near star
VIRTUOUS feedback loop

More about our Edible Fruit Forest proposal and great references, here.

2 Replies to “Guiding Star and Near Star in Systems Thinking”

  1. Brilliant feedback loops there, and really well thought out.
    Would you be able to email me the virtuous loop for the use of the LCO please.
    It would be good to use to demonstrate to potential stakeholders the impact we could have.


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