Letting the data speak (harder than it sounds)

This week I have been “playing” with my data and trying to listen. I want to tell their story, and not impose what I think they should be telling me (This was a point brought up in Writing Science, and when doing exercises in the book it was clear that articles that force stories are not a good read and you can’t cite them). I think the particular challenge for my data set is that depending on what set of assumptions I use to calculate the P flows in the city food system or the UA system really influences the results. Of course I am being very transparent about assumptions and calculations and my reasons for using them, but now I need to make the tough judgement call about which option to chose.

I am also struggling with which stories to tell. Going back to the research questions helps, but it isn’t clear yet if I should write about two stories, or one big one, and in what order sub-stories should then be told. Hopefully Christmas magic will help me create a clear story line with good text, good numbers, and amazing figures!IMG_3731

As I explore my data and try to write an academic story, I am also trying to decide what short story I should share with all the stakeholders that contributed to this research. I had started this process earlier in the season, but now with real numbers coming in, I need to make a call about what the take-home messages should be.

Thinking about going back to basics, explaining the problem and what sustainability thinking and my data have to say about it has also made me reflect on sustainability solutions in general. As sustainability scientists, and systems’ thinkers, we can offer policy, technological, behavioral, cultural, and political changes that can help increase sustainability; but ultimately, the “highest” level of solutions, often come from or with education. That is, increasing knowledge but even more importantly ways of thinking and understanding the world around us. Even though “we” acknowledge the importance of learning and education, sometimes learning/teaching can be the solution that feels most out of reach because changing education and reaping the benefits take a long time. I personally don’t know where to start that change a lot of the time. One of my friends shared a link to one of his friends company who develops educational toys called twenty one toys and I must say I felt pretty good about starting there this christmas.


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