AbstractThis article uses the dilemma of climate change as an entry point to explore the utility of a complexity framework for a more comprehensive social science of environmental sustainability. A theory of complex adaptive systems (CAS) is especially appropriate for the Anthropocene, a newly proposed geological period defined around humanity’s impact on the biosphere. Aspects of complexity theory have been entering public consciousness through popular accounts of climate “tipping points” and “emergent” change—the risk that Earth’s climate could shift into a new pattern in a relatively short time period. Social structures, including capitalism, are complex systems, as are social movements. The paper reviews CAS research with special attention to applications in social ecology. It discusses two case studies of exemplary research on human management of environmental resources and one case study of the antiglobalization movement, all conceived within a complexity framework. The central argument is that complexity thinking will enhance social studies of sustainability and efforts to create a more resilient economy and biosphere.
Weather, Climate, and Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: Oct 2, 2017
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