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An examination of critique on early systems and cybernetics approaches leads to specific tasks for second order cybernetics, particularly with respect to the role and responsibility of the systems analyst (second order observer). The use of scientific advice should preserve as much as possible the principles of participation and democracy. This implies a modified view of the status of expert statements, as well as the necessity of certain checks and balances. The latter leads to interesting and relevant questions for cybernetics. Two mechanisms are identified that can make the role of research distorting rather than enlightening the problems at hand. Environmental issues constitute a prominent field where the limitations of classical approaches as well as the opportunities for second order cybernetics can be demonstrated. Improving on overall sustainability depends on democracy and participation. Checks and balances guarding the role of expertise are essential.