get there? Lessons in what not to do can often be found in cities, where
most officials, overwhelmedby a flood of problems, try to cope by
naming and solving them one at a time. If they are faced with congestion,
their answer is to widen streets and build bypasses andparking
garages. Crime? Lock up the offenders. Smog? Regulate emissions. Illiteracy?
Toughen standards. Litter? Raise fines. Homelessness? Build
shelters, and if that seems tofail, jail the loiterers. Insufficient budget to
fund all these competing priorities? Raise taxes or impose sacrificial
austerity, to taste. Disaffected voters? Blame politicalenemies.
Sometimes single-problem, single-solution approaches do work,
but often, as previously described, optimizing one element in isolation
pessimizes the entire system.Hidden connections that have not been
recognized and turned to advantage will eventually tend to create disadvantage.
Consider what happened in Borneo in the 1950s. Many Dayakvillagers
had malaria, and the World Health Organization had a solution
that was simple and direct. Spraying DDT seemed to work:Mosquitoes
died, and malaria declined. But thenan expanding web of side effects
(“consequences you didn’t think of,” quips biologist Garrett Hardin,
“the existence of which you will deny as long as possible”) started toappear. The roofs of people’s houses began to collapse, because the
DDT had also killed tiny parasitic wasps that had previously controlled
thatch-eating caterpillars. Thecolonial government issued sheet-metal
replacement roofs, but people couldn’t sleep when tropical rains turned
the tin roofs into drums. Meanwhile, the DDT-poisoned bugs were