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Lessons for human survival in a world without ecological templates: what can we learn from small-scale societies?

Roope O. Kaaronen, PAES, Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme, Fac­ulty of Biological and Environ­mental Sciences, University of Helsinki; Environmental Policy Research Group, University of Helsinki; Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), University of Helsinki
Mikael A. Manninen, PAES, Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme, Fac­ulty of Biological and Environ­mental Sciences, University of Helsinki; Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), University of Helsinki
Emery Roe, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki; Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, University of California, Berkeley
Janne I. Hukkinen, Environmental Policy Research Group, University of Helsinki; Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), University of Helsinki; Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki
Jussi T. Eronen, PAES, Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme, Fac­ulty of Biological and Environ­mental Sciences, University of Helsinki; Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), University of Helsinki; BIOS Research Unit, Helsinki, Finland

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12476-260302

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Abstract

Historical records are incomplete templates for preparing for an uncertain future. The global utility of past ecological knowledge for present/future purposes is questioned as we move from Holocene to Anthropocene. To increase the adaptive capacity of today’s societies, generalizable strategies must be identified for coping with uncertainty over a wide range of conditions and contingencies. We identify two key principles that increase adaptive capacities: diversification and precautionary heuristics. These sharply contrast with the present global state represented by the global production ecosystem characterized by: (1) homogenization and simplification of cultural practices and resource bases; (2) increased global connectivity and forced dissolution of cultural borders; and (3) centralization and intensification of modes of resource production and extraction. We highlight that responses of smaller-scale societies to risks and uncertainties are in many cases emulated by professionals in the high reliability management in today’s critical infrastructures. This provides a modern template for managing unpredictability in the Anthropocene.

Key words

adaptation; Anthropocene; climate change; cultural evolution; diversification; environmental change; high reliability management; precautionary principle; risk

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087