Theseus’s ship meets the winds of change: understanding collapse and resilience in social-ecological systems

Date & time

2.30–3.30pm 17 October 2018


Jan Anderson Seminar Room, Level 1, Robertson Building, ANU


Graeme Cumming, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook


 Lindell Bromham

We face an urgent need for better theories of rapid change in social-ecological systems.

I will first use an ancient philosophical puzzle, modern ideas about networks and hierarchy theory, and an analysis of 17 well-documented historical cases of societal collapse to explore the hypothesis that human social structure influences both the likelihood of collapse and the nature of the feedbacks between ecosystems and societies.

I will then extend these ideas to consider the need for structure-process theories in social-ecological research and the need to move beyond descriptive ideas (such as ‘planetary boundaries’) to better understand the mechanisms that drive environmental change.

An empirical analysis of national-level use of ecosystems suggests that global sustainability requires substantive structural changes to our current economic model.

Graeme S. Cumming

Seminar hosted by Tempo and Mode: Centre for Macroevolution and Macroecology


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