Exhibit Five: Shifting the Burden Archetype

The core problem we see in the foregoing charts relates to treating the symptoms of the overshoot rather than the structural causes. This has been a consistent pattern of the Anthropocene – reflecting a widely shared sense of denial that there are natural limits to resource consumption.

The Shifting the Burden Systems Archetype – reflected in the causal loop diagram below – shows how attacking symptoms, rather than identifying and fixing fundamental problems, can lead to further ecological and economic damage and increasing dependence on symptomatic solutions.


When a problem symptom appears, two options present themselves:  1) apply a short-term fix to the symptom, or 2) identify and apply a longer-term fix to the fundamental issue.  The second option is normally less attractive because it involves a greater time delay and probably additional cost before the problem symptom is relieved.  However, applying a short-term fix, as a result of relieving the problem symptoms sooner, reduces the desire to identify and apply a more permanent fix.

Often the short-term fix also induces secondary unintended side effects (worsening ecological overshoot, inflation, unemployment, economic fatigue, etc.) that further undermine efforts to apply a long-term fix.  Note that the short-term fix only relieves the symptoms, it does not fix the problem.  Thus, the symptoms will eventually re-appear and have to be addressed again.

Source: https://blog.iseesystems.com/systems-thinking/shifting-the-burden/