• University of Reading

Using Systems Thinking to Tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis

Discover how switching to a systems mindset could help overcome the global environmental challenges we face today.

1,053 enrolled on this course

Picture of a person playing with a planet Earth themed jigsaw puzzle.

Using Systems Thinking to Tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis

1,053 enrolled on this course

  • 2 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Accreditation available

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Take a big picture approach to the climate and biodiversity crisis

With crises as vast, complex, and interconnected as climate change and biodiversity loss, focusing on one aspect of the problem will never be enough. Systems thinking offers a new way of seeing and understanding environmental issues, which could radically change how we go about tackling them.

On this two-week course from the University of Reading, you’ll learn what systems thinking is and how it could transform your approach to the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Explore why mindsets matter when it comes to environmental issues

Climate experts are clear that purely economic or technical fixes are insufficient to solve environmental problems. To achieve meaningful and lasting change, we need to shift values, mindsets, and worldviews.

Analysing examples of current solutions and their shortcomings, you’ll consider the pitfalls of surface thinking. You’ll delve into the root causes of environmental issues, and use these to envisage more effective solutions.

Investigate what it means to take a big picture approach

In the second week of the course, you’ll put systems thinking into practice. You’ll make use of tools for mapping out environmental issues, asking how they connect to each other and to you.

Be inspired to change your own approach to the problem

By the end of the two weeks, you’ll understand how systems thinking could inform your own approach to the environment.

You’ll be able to act and make a genuine difference to the climate and biodiversity crisis.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds Humanity stands at a dangerous precipice. Our assault on the environment is creating an unlivable climate and damaging the biodiversity that supports us. Our future survival as a species even hangs in the balance. This course is about learning how to think differently to help humanity overcome what the United Nations has called a spiral of self destruction. Instead, we can create positive cycles of human nature restoration. Together, we’ll take a journey to learn how to achieve a systems mindset to tackle the biodiversity and climate crisis.


  • Week 1

    Why mindsets matter

    • Welcome to the course

      Meet your Lead Educator, Professor Tom Oliver, and find out what you'll be learning on this course.

    • The wicked challenge of the climate and biodiversity crisis

      Reflect on the global trends in key environmental metrics, the interacting drivers that cause them, and see the deeper role of mindsets as both a source and solution to global problems.

    • Surface thinking 1: economic fixes

      Discuss the limitations of superficial thinking based solely on economic fixes to global environmental problems.

    • Surface thinking 2: techno fixes

      Discuss the limitations of superficial thinking based solely on technological fixes to global environmental problems.

    • Review and reflect

      Reflect on what you've discovered about systems thinking this Week and look ahead to what will be covered in Week 2.

  • Week 2

    The big picture approach

    • Welcome to Week 2

      The problem with 'blinkered thinking' and how policy makers at very high levels are taking a different approach.

    • Mindsets of connectedness

      Learn how mindsets are linked with global environmental problems in feedback cycles.

    • Ways to reconnect

      Recognise how humans and nature are connected and see how this perspective changes our attitude to the environment.

    • Practical systems thinking

      Explore the practical application of systems thinking through a system mapping exercise.

    • Putting it into practice

      Review what you have learnt about systems thinking from this course and discover ideas for continuing your learning.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

The CPD Certification Service is the leading independent CPD accreditation institution operating across industry sectors.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate competency in and a mindset attuned to systems thinking
  • Critique superficial technological and economic 'solutions' that address one issue but ignore the wider effects on interlinked systems
  • Assess your own values to identify how what's important to you affects your actions and priorities
  • Engage with diverse worldviews and broaden your perspectives on issues of climate and biodiversity
  • Practice analysing problems using simple systems mapping tools to help you understand the bigger picture

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in climate change and biodiversity, or in the theory behind systems thinking. It will be particularly valuable for students or young people hoping to integrate protection of the environment into their careers.

What do people say about this course?

Truly fascinating and eye-opening

"Truly fascinating and eye-opening. Since completing the course my approach to thinking about the climate and biodiversity crisis has changed."

This may be the most significant FL course I've taken...

"... [a] vital and thought-provoking course. I guess it is never too early or, hopefully, too late to start learning about systems thinking and applying it to live problems."

Who will you learn with?

Tom Oliver is a Professor in Ecology and Research Dean for Environment at the University of Reading. He regularly advises the UK Government and the European Commission on environmental topics.

Who developed the course?

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 9 Jul 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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