Connected Wisdom: Living Stories About Living Systems


Connected Wisdom: Living Stories About Living Systems gathers twelve stories from different cultures that each reveal a unique example of a "living system." Through them, Linda Booth Sweeney shows that what we now call systems thinking has been around for a very long time.

A Balinese folktale tells the story of a gecko who cannot sleep because of the sparks from a firefly. He traces the cause of his complaint from one animal to another to the mosquitoes he depends on for his ...

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2009 Trade paperback Fair. Trade paperback (US). Sewn binding. 93 p. Contains: Illustrations, color. Intended for a juvenile audience.

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Connected Wisdom: Living Stories about Living Systems

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Connected Wisdom: Living Stories About Living Systems gathers twelve stories from different cultures that each reveal a unique example of a "living system." Through them, Linda Booth Sweeney shows that what we now call systems thinking has been around for a very long time.

A Balinese folktale tells the story of a gecko who cannot sleep because of the sparks from a firefly. He traces the cause of his complaint from one animal to another to the mosquitoes he depends on for his survival. Like this gecko, young readers will understand that all life is inter-related, and will be able to grasp the concept of the living system of "interdependence." In a Burmese folktale, a king spills a drop of honey on his windowsill, too little to bother cleaning up. Yet the drop draws a fly, which attracts a lizard, which is followed by a cat, then a dog, and the owners of the cat and the dog, each armed with a stick. When civil war erupts, the king and readers understand the living system of "linearity," in which an effect is disproportionate to its cause.

Clear and simple notes accompany these and the other stories in Connected Wisdom.

Says Sweeney, "If kids understand living systems, they're more likely to think and act in informed ways and less likely to jump to blame a single cause for the challenges they encounter. As kids appreciate and learn about living systems, they see that connections in nature, people, problems and events bind us all."

Connected Wisdom is a large-format, full-color volume that is as suitable for gift-giving as it is for classrooms and libraries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"As our new century unfolds, it is becoming more and more evident that the major problems of our time are systemic problems, which means that they are all interconnected and interdependent. To solve them, we need to learn how to think systemically -- in terms of relationships, patterns, processes, and context. In this book, Linda Booth Sweeney has assembled a wonderful collection of ancient folk tales and myths from around the world, which convey the profound "systemic wisdom" of peoples who lived close to nature and had a deep intuitive understanding of life's networks, cycles, and processes of transformation. I highly recommend Connected Wisdom as a superb tool for teaching and learning the systemic thinking that is critical in our globally interconnected world."--Fritjof Capra, author, The Web of Life and The Hidden Connections

"The moment you touch and open this book, its wisdom is evident. This is the wisdom of wholes, of belonging, and connecting the dots to see the richer tapestry of life."--Raffi, singer, author, founder of Child Honoring

"Bravo! Your book is a triumph. Connected Wisdom: Living Stories about Living Systems belongs in every classroom."--Joanna Macy, Eco-philosopher, author, and educator

"A beautiful book of beautiful stories for a new generation of system citizens. Milton Glaser's art design, Guy Billout's illustrations and the timeless stories remind us of what beauty can teach and the wisdom of cultures who have come before us. An aesthetic milestone of the systems movement."--Peter M. Senge, MIT and SoL. author or co-author of The Fifth Discipline, Presence, and The Necessary Revolution

"Connected Wisdom is spectacular -- mouth watering! I love the simplicity of language [the author] uses to tell the stories, and the framing of them. The artwork is delightful and the book design and materials are knock-your-socks off."--Anne Starr, Partner, The Learning Circle

"Our actions, connected to the people and the natural world around us, are not only worth seeing, it is the point at which you are actually seeing. Connected Wisdom uses simple language, pictures, and parables to explain and beautifully illustrate natural principles in our relationships to each other and the natural world. This book helps parents and children alike see our world made up of many parts for what it is - connected."--Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

"A gorgeous collection of fables, illuminated by thoughtful summaries. Connected Wisdom gives us a clear view of living systems through the power of storytelling. My first glance gave me that ever-warming Aha! of interconnectedness."--Peter C. Stone, author of The Untouchable Tree, An Illustrated Guide to Earthly Wisdom & Arboreal Delights

"So well presented, so clearly written, so enticing to the teacher in me, so appealing to the self-directed learner. I love the way [Linda Booth Sweeney] connects classic folk tales to what's real for students (of any age) and to the larger context of natural systems. She prepares the reader for each tale such that we marvel at the universality of the spoken traditions of old…. I have only one stumbling block about this book: I always read with a pencil in hand - to mark meaningful phrases and ideas that I will want to refer to in a second or third reading. Connected Wisdom is so beautiful that I've not been able to mark it up... yet. I find myself imagining what I'd do were I still in the classroom to use these tales in an integrated way, to inspire and promote problem solving and systems thinking in student groups. In the book, there are things I'd hold back from students because I think they'd love making the connections on their own, with the proper prep and the literature as a prompt.If education can make the adjustment to a systems approach that is inclusive of environmental science and human relatedness as she suggests, we'll be far better off. I think the days of independence and self-centered thinking are over. We need a holistic approach to living and learning where teachers and children, families and communities, farmers and white-collar workers respect each other and depend on each other for the sustainability of the planet. "--Sandria Parsons, Founder, South Coast Learning Network

"Beautiful …. The writing so seamlessly tied together [the author's] ecological concepts with the stories … chosen. And such handsome bookmaking! I am doing a keynote on tales of kindness for the National Storytelling Network Conference in Hawaii and will add this to my bibliography."--Margaret Read MacDonald, Author and storyteller

"Wow! I love how [Linda Booth Sweeney] talks about each concept and uses the folktales illustrate/expand. The book could easily be used as the basis for a curriculum on the interconnected-ness of our world (in a variety of content areas from science to social studies)--the concepts can be talked about and applied at so many different levels. I feel like it could be adapted and used in the whole range of grade levels--kindergarten through high school."--Rachel Rosner, Professional Educator

"I just received your beautiful book! .... It's wonderful to see how you can make the ideas resonate--presenting them in a straightforward way that gets to their essential elements. And the illustrations by Guy Billout are a great accompaniment, curiously detailed and mythic at the same moment. Congratulations."--David Eddy Spicer, University of Bath (UK), Department of Education

"Artfully, beautifully, playfully, seriously, clearly Linda Booth Sweeney invites us to join her in a deeper understanding of the profound principles of living systems. Tapping wisdom connected to many cultures and many times, Linda weaves memorable simple stories into a tapestry holding enormous complexity. A book that is at once a work of art, a representation of science, and an invitation to think more deeply and playfully, Connected Wisdom is a gift. Whether the reader is six or sixty, it matters not. These pages open us more fully to the world around us."--Judy Sorum Brown, Senior Fellow, The James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780982248010
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 11.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Booth Sweeney, Ed. D., is a researcher and writer dedicated to making the principles of systems thinking and sustainability accessible to children and others. She has worked with Outward Bound, Sloan School of M.I.T., and Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development, or SEED. She is the author of The Systems Thinking Playbook; When a Butterfly Sneezes: A guide for helping children explore interconnections in our world through favorite stories; Connected Wisdom: Living Stories about Living Systems and numerous academic journals and newsletters. Sweeney lives outside Boston, Massachusetts. More information is available at

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Table of Contents

1. Interdependence

2. Systems integrity

3. Biodiversity

4. Cooperation and partnership

5. Rightness of size

6. The commons

7. Living cycles

8. Waste

9. Food

10. Balancing feedback

11. Reinforcing feedback

12. Nonlinearity

13. Earth time

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2011


    I found this book very informative. I checked it out at our library and decided I wanted to keep a copy. I told a friend about it and he also wanted copies. It seemed fresh and new to me.

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