I just heard that my proposal for a national-level working group on the evolution of social-ecological systems has been funded by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, along with CoPIs Marco Janssen (ASU) and Karolina Safarzynska (Warsaw, ). A summary follows:
Understanding the processes of change in social-ecological systems is a pressing problem in our world of dwindling resources, but a unifying framework has remained absent. In particular, evolutionary theories have had little influence on ecological sustainability research. The goal of this project is to develop a new modeling framework by integrating models of endogenous cultural evolution with models of social-ecological system change.
This integration is needed for two major reasons. First, endogenous cultural change (i.e. changes in norms, values, preferences and social organization) is often rapid and may drive the overall state of social-ecological systems more than slow or diffuse environmental forces. Second, when conserving environmental resources is costly for individuals and groups, it conforms to the game theoretic definition of cooperative behavior. Cooperation can evolve through cultural mechanisms, which have been extensively studied and formalized by cultural evolution researchers. Cultural evolutionary models can therefore assist in studying the emergence and persistence of sustainable social-ecological systems. This project brings together scholars who work on cultural evolution with modelers of social and ecological systems to develop a collaborative network on the evolutionary dynamics of social-ecological systems.
I am excited to start the process of working on this problem with a bunch of extremely well-qualified and capable researchers!