Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons by Simon Levin, Simon A. Levin

By Simon Levin, Simon A. Levin

We know that our planet is wasting its organic variety at an alarming fee, with scary implications for our destiny. but if does an environment hit the verge of collapse? during this very important publication, Princeton biologist Simon Levin deals common readers the 1st examine how the recent technology of complexity can assist to resolve our looming ecological hindrance. Levin argues that our biosphere is the vintage embodiment of what scientists name complicated adaptive structures. through exploring how such platforms paintings, we will be able to be certain how they may fail: How a lot loss can an environment endure sooner than it starts off to break down? How resilient are those platforms? Do they in truth hover on the fringe of chaos? A deeply unique paintings on the most urgent problems with our time, Fragile Dominion is a strong entice comprehend and guard the worldwide “commons.”

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Or is it the outcome of a coevolutionary process that has shaped life forms and environment to fit one another? This chapter explores these issues, building from the premise that the biosphere is a self-organizing system in which global patterns emerge from evolutionary innovations that arise and spread locally. In this view, selection acts most rapidly and most forcefully at small scales, where feedback loops are tight, and much more weakly and slowly at broader scales, where feedbacks are diffuse.

Natural selection, together with other drivers of evolutionary change such as mutation, recombination, environmental factors, and simply chance events, provides the central organizing principle for understanding how the biosphere came to be, and how it continues to change. No teleological principles are at work at the level of the whole system, or even at the local level. The biosphere is a complex adaptive system in which the never-ending generation of local variation creates an environment of continual exploration, selection, and replacement.

Neighborhood action groups provide examples in which geography alone does the trick, and cities and nations are elaborations of this theme. Labor unions and credit unions are examples where common interest provides the glue, and the common purpose. Genetics provides perhaps the strongest link, often reinforcing geographical or other factors, since related individuals are more likely to live close to one another than are unrelated individuals. The most obvious example is the level of sacrifice parents make for their children, who carry their genes forward into the next generation.

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