9 Operational Research, Systems Analysis, Systems Engineering (Hard Systems Thinking)

Many elements of such [socio‐technical] systems exhibit forms of regular behaviour, and scientific scrutiny has yielded much knowledge about these regularities. Thus, many of the problems that arise in sociotechnical systems can be addressed by focusing such knowledge in appropriate ways by means of the logical, quantitative, and structural tools of modern science and technology

(Quade and Miser 1980, p. 2)

9.1 Prologue

In 2012, Pauline and I bought a house close to the Segura River, in a town called Blanca in the Murcia region of Spain. It was a year after my original cancer diagnosis. We had decided to “keep on truckin” as the Grateful Dead, and others before them, advised. It was a quick decision, which I soon thought we would regret when I came across an article comparing the Segura to an open sewer. It was apparently contaminated to 10 times the legal limit and emitted foul smells in towns through which it passed. The state of the river had provoked a demonstration of 12 000 people in the city of Murcia. Panicking, I started doing some research on Google and found, fortunately, that the article I was reading was out‐of‐date. By 2011, the Segura had become the least polluted of all the great Spanish rivers, with contamination imperceptible over its entire 350 km length. As Bill McCann writes:

It must be a rare, if not unique, experience for a nationally important European river ...

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