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Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systems Workshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001. Mappae Mundi: some remarks about pathways and pathfinders. Bert de Vries, RIVM. BdV may2001 Abisko. Mappae Mundi project. The research question:.

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Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systems Workshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001


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    1. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 Mappae Mundi: some remarks about pathways and pathfinders Bert de Vries, RIVM BdV may2001 Abisko

    2. Mappae Mundi project The research question: Can we deepen our understanding of the co-evolution of humans and their environment by combining the fragments of existing data, knowledge and insights, and by developing and applying new theories, concepts and tools?

    3. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 In environmental history, historical ecology… … we talk about socio-natural systems, human-environment interactions… Seeing our large role as change-agent in and our dependency on ‘nature’… we increasingly see ‘society’ and ‘nature’ as an integrated system. Where is this integrated system and its various [interacting] subsystems going? Is there one ‘trajectory’ for any society and/or the whole system - Emergence, Transformation and Decay (ETD)? * from egalitarian tribal groups to stratified empires to ...? * from nature-dominated to human-dominated? This may be the wrong question - but many of us feel or think ‘somehow we are going somewhere’. … where - towards increasing complexity? BdV may2001 Abisko

    4. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 environmental background 1st order relationships 2nd order relationships • Climate • temperature • precipitation • … • Geography • soil • rivers, coast • elevation • ... • Mineral resources • ... crops and plants micro-organisms animals wind/water power trade routes … food supplies human health transport communication tools, weapons building materials pottery Importance? BdV may2001 Abisko

    5. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 • Let’s associate a complex system with: • The action span in terms of exchange of energy and matter with the environment of the system elements; • The interconnectedness, both in number and nature, of the system elements; and • The capacity of the system elements to encode a past and anticipate a future, from hard – as in DNA – to soft – as in behavioural learning and mental mapping – encodings. BdV may2001 Abisko

    6. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 actor connections actor characteristics BdV may2001 Abisko

    7. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 Were [some] human systems following a trajectory of increasing complexity? Can we trace such a path in terms of actor characteristics [degree of behavioural freedom and anticipatory mental modelling capability] and actor interaction [exchange of goods, skills, ideas; authority and conquest] ? Is there ‘one’ path or at least one sequence of stages? What is our guideline - phaseology of fire regime, agro-regime, industrial regime? confrontation of ‘forest people’, nomads and civilizations (Bell-Fialkoff)? BdV may2001 Abisko

    8. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 • Many theories in social sciences presume some deterministic path for [any] society from state A to state B(Thompson 2001): • from mechanical to organic solidarity (Durkheim); • from traditional to modern (Weber); • from capitalism to communism (Marx); • from status to contract, community to society, markets to hierarchies... • Cultural Theory suggests that there are • four interacting solidarities: individualist, hierarchist, egalitarian and fatalist, • providing the requisite variety for continuous interaction and • leading to a never-ending sequence of transitions between multiple states. • The resulting trajectory is characteristic of a complex system: • unpredictable, non-linear and ‘noone ever getting it right’. Can the ’clumsy institutions’ of Cultural Theory (Thompson et al.) provide resilience via variety? BdV may2001 Abisko

    9. RIVM bdv 2/95

    10. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 compost creative destruction climax community fatalism hierarchy conservation renewal individualism egalitarianism pioneer community low-level energy enclaves exploitation Four interpretations of and strategies towards the environment (cf. ecocyles isomorphism) (after Thompson 2001) BdV may2001 Abisko

    11. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 • Think of those first groups of people with aspirations, perceived opportunities and subjected to threats in their interaction with their environment. How did they organize themselves? • growing food on their own plot of land (individualist) • managing common property (grazing land for their animals, forests, irrigation works) (hierarchist) • community arrangements to avert large threats (egalitarian). • Is this how each society had its own trajectory with sequences of • individualist episodes (smallholders, unconstrained trade, mercenaries) • r -strategists in pioneer community e.g. European settlers • hierarchist episodes (large hierarchies and investments - empires) • K-strategists in climax community e.g. large river empires • egalitarian episodes (tribal groups, sectarian movements) • unspecialized cooperation fixing energy e.g. Mande people in Niger Is there an sociocycle of emergence, transformation and decay? BdV may2001 Abisko

    12. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 • How does ‘economics’ come into the picture? • Essential aspects of the material metabolism and the associated social dynamics are • the ‘value added’ character of all human interference • the crucial role of accumulation of knowledge (‘technology’) • the ‘value redistribution’ character of all socio-political exchange. Value extraction and accumulation: tax, extortion, conquest trade, knowledge/skills crops soil impr/irr wood cut/proc ore proc ... value addition value [re]distribution Value degradation: degradation of people (slavery etc.) degradation of resources/environment “resource” BdV may2001 Abisko

    13. Emergence, transformation and decay in socio-natural systemsWorkshop Abisko 19-22 may 2001 • Bringing together natural sciences and social sciences: the Human Habitat Potential (HHP) in per/ha: • with FEP Food Extraction Potential (kcal/ha/hr), A an attractiveness functional (e.g. a multiplier between 1 and 2) and FR Food Requirement (kcal/pers/hr). • Merging of information on geography and climate with archaological and historical accounts? Which considerations to be taken into account? BdV may2001 Abisko