Problem

Preoccupation with isolated problems

Other Names:
Overemphasis on discrete problems
Failure to focus on fundamental systemic problems
Overemphasis on symptoms of more fundamental problems
Piecemeal approach to problem-solving
Individual problem overemphasis
Oversimplified problem approaches
Instrumental problem solving
Nature:
Many problems are treated in isolation, whether for political reasons (as in the case of CFC effects on the ozone layer, for which corrective measures are obvious) or for public relations reasons (as in the case of endangered species such as the condor, which lend themselves readily to public campaigns). Perceived in this way, remedies can be found to such problems. This approach fails to deal with much more fundamental problems, whether economic, social or environmental, which result from the complex dynamics of the system in question.

Public belief in atomism legitimates the position of those who argue that fixing the parts is sufficient, as well as the position of those who argue that fixing the parts has not been effective in the past and that thus nothing can be done.

Incidence:
Measures to decrease acid rain by improving the fuel efficiency of cars or power plants would also decrease emissions of carbon dioxide and, hence, global warming. On the other hand, attempts to address the same problem by using catalytic converters or equipment to remove sulphur oxides would lead to slightly higher carbon dioxide emissions.
Claim:
Global climate change, acid rain, and the accumulation of toxins cannot be treated apart from the high rates of use of energy and materials for industrial production and transport associated with Western opulence. Similarly poverty and environmental degradation in the poor countries must be seen as one problem. Poverty cannot be solved without better environmental management and better environmental management cannot be attained without the managers of the land receiving a fair return. Whole systems must be addressed. But our public belief in atomism legitimates the position of those who argue that fixing the parts is sufficient, as well as the position of those who argue that fixing the parts has not been effective in the past and that thus nothing can be done.
Narrower Problems:
Political myopia
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET