Evolving the Anthropocene: linking multi-level selection with long-term social–ecological change

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Nov 23, 2017
Author: 
Erle C. Ellis, Nicholas R. Magliocca, Chris J. Stevens, Dorian Q. Fuller

 

Abstract

To what degree is cultural multi-level selection responsible for the rise of environmentally transformative human behaviors? And vice versa? From the clearing of vegetation using fire to the emergence of agriculture and beyond, human societies have increasingly sustained themselves through practices that enhance environmental productivity through ecosystem engineering. At the same time, human societies have increased in scale and complexity from mobile bands of hunter-gatherers to telecoupled world systems. We propose that these long-term changes are coupled through positive feedbacks among social and environmental changes, coevolved primarily through selection acting at the group level and above, and that this can be tested by combining archeological evidence with mechanistic experiments using an agent-based virtual laboratory (ABVL) approach. A more robust understanding of whether and how cultural multi-level selection couples human social change with environmental transformation may help in addressing the long-term sustainability challenges of the Anthropocene.

Read the full paper in Sustainability Science.

 

 

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
DOI for citing: 
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-017-0513-6
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