Talk:Complex socio-ecological systems/Background

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Every time I read about complex adaptive systems, everything in life and death makes sense.

I think Sewall Wright invented this stuff in the 1930's with his heuristic of "adaptive landscapes" - where the fitness of different genotypes were mapped onto a landscape. As individuals or populations adapt with recombination and selection pressure, they climb their local fitness mountains. The hypothetical landscape stretches into the distance, but populations usually just climb up the fitness mountain they begin on, unable to jump across the valleys to higher peaks... until... they are disrupted a sudden change in the landscape or a mutation and allowed to explore other peaks. Then things settle down, and they again climb their new peak, although it may be a very different one.

Life is a series of "stable states" (I think a 3-dimensional peak is a better analogy), where things seems static and quiet. Then everything explodes, opening up opportunity for recombination and eventually a new state. It is this way in the stock market, relationships, social-ecological systems... some call it evolutionary "optimization", but that makes it seem that we know what we want to optimize. Resilience = how stuck you are on your mountain.

Two challenges to managing complex systems: 1. Knowing what you really want, and 2. Recognizing and capitalizing upon opportunities. There are ways to cross valleys to reach higher peaks, but you must have vision and guts. Jradachowsky


Folke (2006) is a review about the development of the concept of Resilience, and how its influenced other sciences besides Systems Ecology, where resilience came from. The concept emerged from empirical observation of ecosystem dynamics that challenged the notion of equilibrium in Ecology. Later, social dimensions were included in the discussion of resilience linking social and ecological systems. He argues for the use of broader concept of resilience to manage complex socio-ecological systems.

Scheffer et al (2001) discussed the concept of alternative stable state giving examples of different ecosystems reactions to disturbance, like lakes, oceans, deserts and so forth. They argue that is important to understand this process in order to avoid unwanted state shifts that can affect resilience of the system and the implications of that for management of resources. I am not much familiar with some ecological concepts presented but I am interested in understand how they can be used to understand social systems.Tha sob

These two papers are great choices for introducing the concept of ecological resilience sensu Holling. The Folke paper does a great job tracing the recent history of the concept (I say so to give the nod to Wright's work mentioned above) and the review hits the major authors and high points. The famous cosmic-lemniscate model to describe capital and connectivity is introduced, although to those unfamiliar with its use it could use more attention--likely during our first class, I'd imagine. Moving from first theoretical principles to empirical evidence, the Scheffer et al paper also represents a great first read. It makes a compelling case and goes into enough depth to satisfy a range of levels of understanding of ecological principles. The question of describing resilience in more specific and quantitative terms, usually countered by the question "resilience of what to what?", is certainly helpful to keep in mind. As the system being considered moves from the realm of natural ecology toward coupled human-natural systems, keeping one's head wrapped around exactly what one means by "resilience" can become difficult. I suspect that we will probably spend much of the first meeting discussing definitions--particularly to guide thinking in this latter area--but that seems helpful and even necessary. 24.136.33.118Adam

Folke examines how the ideas about resilience evolved. He traces the term back to the field of ecology and its evolution to understanding ecosystems and linked social-ecological ecosystems. The idea of resilience is based on the empirical observation that ecosystems are not stable -- they change over time at different speeds. There are critical points in which ecosystems change fast followed by periods of slow change. The study of linked social-ecological systems is based on the more recent understanding that the environment and society are inseparable.

Early environmental sociologists proposed this inseparability during the 1970s. Two famous articles within the field of environmental sociology that argues that society should be understood together with the environment are the articles by Catton and Dunlap (1978, 1979). However, they did not talk about environmental change, the foundation of the concept of resilience. Their perspective focused on society - they argued that one needs to pay attention to the physical environment that surrounds people to understand society and social behavior.

It would be interesting to contrast the perspective of "ecological modernization" that is supported by many Dutch scholars to the ideas about resilience and adaptation that is popular among American, Canadian, and Swedish scholars.

Is the Brazilian "jeitinho" a form of social resilience?

Flaleite12345 23:14, 6 January 2011 (UTC) Flavia


I appreciated Folke’s narrative about how resilience thinking came to be. It made me reflect about the challenges of resilience theory and its applicability. Something that has been bothering me about resilience literature is how to move from the description of the system to the explanation of the interrelationships. Folke mentions “the resilience approach is concerned with how to persist through continuous development in the face of change and how to innovate and transform into new more desirable configurations” (p.260). Although those how questions are explanatory, the unpredictable nature of the complex adaptive systems limits our potential research to a description of a process that has already taken place. Has anyone read something about attempts to model socio-ecological / complex adaptive systems?

The idea of talking about renewal, regeneration and re-organization as oppose to recovery as well as talking about regimes or attractors as oppose to stable states or equilibria in resilience framework got my attention.--Cmonzon 01:14, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

Rondonxj 16:51, 12 January 2011 (UTC) I found an interesting article that may be of interest to some of you. It is on 'Resilience and the arts' Here is the link: http://www.resalliance.org/index.php/resilience_and_the_arts

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