Mapping the MLP (v7.02)

This is version 7.02 of a continually evolving map of the wicked problem of consumption and waste. Click on any section of the map to learn more about it.

Please note:
Due to the complex detail captured in this map it is best viewed on devices with larger screens. The map does work on mobile in landscape mode, but depending on your screen size and/or eyesight it can be tricky to read without zooming in.

Systems maps such as this one often become redundant very quickly. Between Dec 2019 and March 2020 version 7.01 of this map became redundant. Version 7.02 was mapped in May-June 2020. It will likely loose relevance again within less than 6 months.

This map is published here to demonstrate three theories in action, the Multi-Level Perspective, Social Practice Theory and Design Culture Theory. This site accompanies a paper exploring the intersection of these theories in order to operationalise them.

Mapping the MLP (v7.02)
Ecology: past Socio-technical landscape: past Mass Land Clearing The commons Urban Living Designed obsolescence Meritocracy The hole in the ozone layer Capitalism Planetary boundaries are ignored Pollinator decline Increasing weather events Centralised production Technological systems of provision Post-Fordism and just-in-time logisitics

Ecology: past

An explicit level in this operationalised MLP that maps impacts on ecology as separate from the socio-technical landscape to acknowledge that socio-technical systems nest within ecology.

Socio-technical landscape: past


Mass Land Clearing

Land use changes are one of the largest contributors to emissions, not only from the removal of carbon sinks resulting from felling mature trees, but from the subsequent emissions resulting from the change. Land clearing for agriculture results in cropping and livestock that continue to contribute to emissions, degrade soil health, create injustices for people and animals, and compromise the continued health of the planet and its inhabitants. People included.

The commons

The commons are resources and spaces that are shared and accessible to all. An example of this inside your home or office might be the refrigerator which is shared by building occupants, and outside, this might be the ocean which is shared by marine life and harvested by humans. These resources are often exploited because they are viewed as 'free'.

Urban Living

Increasingly dense urban living and urban sprawl has changed land use and centralised activity into regionalised hubs. This has created a demand for centralised services, particularly supermarkets, shopping malls and department stores.

Designed obsolescence

Post WW2, centralised shopping activity was aligned with streamlined manufacturing and supported by post-war ‘designed obsolescence’ policies that served as an economic strategy to boost the economy out of recession. This strategy called for products to be made poorly or to create an inbuilt 'expiry' of sorts that would prompt faster consumer cycles. The strategy employed advertising and design to stimulate desire, creating a shift in design's role to become mediators of consumer culture. The impact of designed obsolescence as a strategy is still felt today, and evident in hostile product designs that inhibit repair or drain performance to encourage early-upgrades.

For more on this see:

Packard, V. The Waste Makers

Dickinson, G. Selling democracy Consumer culture and citizenship in the wake of September 11


An attitude that rewards people with particular skills and abilities with positions of power. Whilst some people may rise based on true merit, others may also rise based on the tendency for meritocracy to favour those of a particular class, status and ability. It promises equality but often fails to deliver on truly equitable social mobility.

The hole in the ozone layer

In the 70s a hole was discovered in the ozone's stratospheric layer responsible for keeping us safe from harmful UV rays from the sun. In the late 1980s a ban on CFCs came into effect. By the mid 1990s there had been a marked improvement to the ozone and in 2019 it was reportedly the smallest it had ever been since its first documentation. This demonstrates how policy enactment and behaviour change can combine with the earth's natural repair mechanism to mitigate an ecological crisis.


Capitalism is an economic strategy and political ideology that seeks to privatise services and the means of production. It is an inherently exploitative system that creates ever-widening class divides between workers and owners. A capitalist mindset values competition and economic growth at any expense, even to the detriment of its own context, earth.

Planetary boundaries are ignored

Despite multiple signals from nature (and warning from scientists) stating the limits to growth, the continued exploitation of natural resources continues to bring devastating repercussions. Many of these reinforce one another through feedback loops, seen for example in the increase of weather events in turn increase emissions in multiple ways. A lightening strike from a storm can start a fire which poor land management has left vulnerable. The fire destroys all in its path, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere and destroying ecosystems (carbon sinks) in its wake. Similarly, a hurricane or tornado destroys everything in its path, displacing people and animals from their homes and destroying infrastructure. Post-event cleanup and rebuild creates further emissions through construction and often post-event land use changes come into effect which can also increase emissions.

Pollinator decline


Increasing weather events


Centralised production


Technological systems of provision

Post-Fordism and just-in-time logisitics