Evolutionary Approaches to Social-Ecological Change
Maja SCHLÜTER, Thomas CURRIE, Monique BORGERHOFF MULDER
2021-10-08 14:00 - 2021-10-08 15:30
Organized by KLI & University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU)
Topic description / abstract:
Evolutionary and adaptive change are general processes that apply to a wide range of systems, including genetic, environmental and cultural systems. But, although evolutionary thinking may assist in the study of social-ecological systems, applying evolutionary logic to social-ecological systems remains a challenge. Our KLI working group proposes to explore, extend, and enrich the connections between evolutionary theory and social-ecological change. Tim Waring will argue that one useful aspect of evolutionary approaches is in their ability to describe unwanted outcomes with useful detail because what evolves may not be what is desirable. Tim will share examples of the application of evolutionary thinking to social-ecological system processes, and some posit some forward-looking questions and goals on the topic. Maja Schlüter will briefly talk about complexity-based social-ecological systems research and its approaches to social-ecological change such as natural resource collapse or governance transformation. Given the growing interest in theorizing change processes as the field is maturing, she will reflect on how evolutionary theory may help explain and theorize the emergence of social-ecological phenomena.
Maja Schlüter's research focuses on mechanisms of change in social-ecological systems in the context of natural resource management and on conceptual and methodological foundations of social-ecological systems research. She applies a complexity perspective and combines place-based empirical research with agent-based modelling to understand how social-ecological systems unfold from intertwined social and ecological processes, with particular emphasis on the importance of context and cross-scale dynamics. She leads an interdisciplinary group of researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre that collaborate to co-create understanding of social-ecological phenomena that benefits from multiple perspectives.
Thomas Currie's research focuses on investigating human behaviour and cultural diversity using evolutionary theory. Thomas uses statistical analyses and agent-based modelling to test competing hypotheses about how cultural traits and societies change over time, and to understand what ecological and social factors drive the evolution of social and political organization. Thomas is particularly interested in understanding how our ability to create social rules (“institutions”) affects the evolution of cooperation and collective action in humans, and how institutions evolve over time. Thomas also applies this framework to studying community-based conservation, and work with pastoral communities in Kenya to understand the factors affecting success or failure of different community-based projects.
Monique Borgerhoff Mulder is a human behavioral ecologist (HBE) working on projects relating to life history, inequality, natural resource management, and patterned cultural variation. With HBE she explores big "Why" questions about our species: Why do people marry? What is the basis of gender roles in economic and social behavior? Why has fertility dropped so radically in most parts of the world? How can people cooperate over natural resource management? Why is economic growth in the developing world not reducing inequality? She has active conservation and development projects, both research and applied, at national and local levels in Tanzania , in Mpimbwe, with Savannas Forever Tanzania, and most recently in Zanzibar.