The Mysterious Disappearance Of Saudi Arabia’s Garden Of Eden -Mental Model 054

Second Order Effects

First order effects directly follow from a cause, while second order effects follow from first order effects.


Example: Imagine a line of dominoes. You knock the first one over—that’s the first order effect. Then the first domino knocks the second domino over—that’s the second order effect. And so on.


Off the coast of Saudi Arabia there is a small island country called Bahrain. A few decades ago, it was filled with lush greenery—an oasis said to be the site of the Garden of Eden. Now, that same land is a desert—because of second order effect.


How so? Bahrain is surrounded by a network of underground springs that fed the plant life. As Bahrain’s major city, Manama, became crowded, the country looked to expand its available land by excavating dirt from the centre of the island and depositing it on the coast—making more land available to build on. The new land was the first order effect. The second order effect was unintended—it caused the underground springs to dry up and the plant life disappeared.


Wisdom: “We are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequence of our actions.” — Stephen Covey


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