Posts tagged ecosystems
Are global solutions impossible? Not at all. But global solutions are not composed of standardised identical units; they are ecosystems, organic mosaics of local solutions. For example, nature has a robust global solution to growing forests. It is not a single very large tree that covers 30% of the planet’s surface. It is not a single species of tree cloned in tens of billions of units across the whole globe. It is diversity: local adaptation, commensalism, some competition. A forest on the Mediterranean coast occupies the same ecological niche as one in Siberia, but the two consist of entirely different species, and are very different along almost any other dimension. Nature gets there by evolution: try many things, more or less at random (variation); then weed out those who do not work (natural selection); iterate.
Examples of catastrophic and systemic changes have been gathering in a variety of fields, typically in specialized contexts with little cross-connection. Only recently have we begun to look for generic patterns in the web of linked causes and effects that puts disparate events into a common framework—a framework that operates on a sufficiently high level to include geologic climate shifts, epileptic seizures, market and fishery crashes, and rapid shifts from healthy ecosystems to biological deserts. The main themes of this framework are twofold: First, they are all complex systems of interconnected and interdependent parts. Second, they are nonlinear, non-equilibrium systems that can undergo rapid and drastic state changes.