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On Wednesday 15th March fifteen Lower Sixth economics students joined systems thinking and climate change expert, Martin Lees (CE 1955-1960) for a mind expanding seminar in the Old Library. 

As useful preparation for the seminar Martin Lees shared a document to students in advance on the systems approach.  The paper was drawn from a presentation he had made to a major government Ministry of Environment.  Besides the outline of systems thinking, it provided a practical real-world context which was of great interest to the students.

Emily B - Mr Lees provided us with contemporary and thought-provoking ideas on the growing problem of the Climate Crisis. He spoke clearly and passionately on the importance of integrating economic, social, and environmental policies, to move away from the now redundant reductionist thinking and shift our perspective to Systems Thinking. His encouraging engagement with all of our questions, allowed us to explore the different issues and challenges that our society face when trying to mitigate climate change and how we can overcome them.

Sofia T - I found this seminar very eye opening as it highlighted the current issues when approaching global problems. Martin Lees talked in detail about the benefits of systems thinking to solving these challenges. Especially in reference to climate change, it was interesting to discover the application of systems thinking to recent developments such as the willow project (which we discussed afterwards). From this seminar I now understand that our world is journeying towards an economy that doesn't view environmental impacts as an external cost, but instead takes these impacts into account when directing economic growth. This is vital for the future of addressing the climate crisis and Martin Lees was inspiring when saying that it is up to our generation to ensure these developments for a more sustainable world are implemented.

Robert L - The seminar with Martin Lees was extremely insightful. It gave me an alternative and interesting perspective of how we should be dealing with climate change. 'Systems thinking' ties in with what I am studying in both economics and geography. In the seminar we discussed the impact of measuring economic growth with GDP on both the environment and inequality. I am planning to read further into the topic of 'systems thinking' and doing my own research as it is both a relevant and interesting topic.

Lara J - Mr Lees provided a new way of thinking, informing us on the systematic approach of solving climate change. His knowledge and expertise on the subject had us all fascinated. I was most shocked to find out that 1.3bn people are affected by desertification and that global warming is happening 3-5x faster in the arctic regions as well as the Alps.

Sophie H - I really enjoyed and found Martin Lees’ Seminar extremely interesting. I found learning about systematic thinking and the different problems fascinating especially how climate change is a systematic problem and how it is fundamental that we start teaching systematic thinking from a young age.

Martin Lees is an expert in sustainability and climate change, having been working with governments across the globe on these critical issues for the last 27 years. He is Chair of OECD IIASA Task Force on Systems Thinking, Anticipation and Resilience and Rector Emeritus at the UN University for Peace. He was a High-level Adviser to the President of COP20; Moderator of the Gorbachev Task Force on Climate Change and was previously UN Assistant Secretary General for Science and Technology for Development. Martin studied Mechanical Sciences at Cambridge University and was educated at Fettes.