I study the cultural evolution of human environmental sustainability. I study the emergence and spread of environmental cooperation and sustainable institutions using evolutionary theory, behavioral experiments, and agent simulations. My research has explored the dynamics of human cooperation in the laboratory, irrigation systems in Tamil Nadu, blueberry, lobster and local food industries in Maine, university-citizen relationships, and co-operative organizations. I lead an international group of evolutionary sustainability scientists, and am part of a research team studying cultural adaptation to climate change in the US northeast. Find me on Mastodon.
The evolution of sustainability
How do sustainable behaviors, institutions and societies arise and persist? Human behavior, institutions and societies co-evolve with the environmental resources they utilize. Most of my research works to understand that co-evolutionary process. See my research publications.
Cultural adaptation to climate change
How do people and organizations adopt practices and systems that are beneficial under climate change ? ‘Climate adaptation’ is the general term in research and policy for beneficial human system responses to climate change. As part of a $4M NSF grant, I am investigating how the more technically specific process of ‘cultural adaptation to climate change’ can enhance climate adaptation research and policy in contemporary settings. See more here.
Growing an applied science of cultural evolution for a sustainable future
I lead an applied working group project with Rebecca Koomen at the University of Dundee. This global working group will host conversations between sustainability experts, conservation leaders, policy makers, and scientists of cultural evolution. We will create outreach materials with a professional artist, and grow a research and practice network to share these ideas and materials among conservation and sustainability organizations, government agencies, and grassroots organizations around the world. See more at the Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Fund.
Evolutionary Theories for Social-Ecological Change
I lead a working group at the KLI Institute in Austria together with Maja Schlüter at the Stockholm Resilience Center. Our working group aims to connect the domains of evolutionary theory and social-ecological systems change to improve our collective ability to understand and influence the complex processes of change in social-ecological systems for the better. See more at the KLI.
Evolve and Sustain: a global research and application network
I started a small email list in 2013. That list became the communication tool for the Sustainability Working Group of the Cultural Evolution Society in 2016. It has now grown into a global research and practice network with researchers and practitioners all looking to use the evolutionary toolkit to develop new solutions. See the Evolve and Sustain Network.
The role of cooperation in the evolution of organizations
What role does cooperation play in the growth and evolution of organizations? Cooperation should be central in the durability of human organizations. I have studied the evolution of co-operative organizations in particular. We have found that people in co-operatives exhibit more behavioral and economic cooperation than people in equivalent businesses (Tremblay et al., 2019). And we found a set of operating principles that emerged in 1844 and spread globally to be common in co-operatives today. We found evidence that principles may have emerged via adaptive cultural evolution (Waring and Lange, 2021). See my MacPherson Lecture at the Center for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan.