Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ecological Social Science

Most of us understand that human actions are a major influence on ecology and discussion of climate control, air pollution and other ecological topics of global and local importance should not be studied without considering the impact of humans on nature. Moran's book with the same title gives a very complete overview of this new subject: the combination of ecology and social sciences. The book reviews the differences in the viewpoints and methods; it mentions many of the studies carried out and the models they use.

I missed a substantive insight, how natural and social systems interact and I was surprised that the political influence is dealt with in about 4 pages on political economy and political ecology. The book forced me to think about my personal understanding of 'social ecology':

Taking global warming as the most pressing problem, I use from Ostrom the insight, that trust among participants is necessary. It is hard to see, how trust can be built, if the major players (U.S.A. and China) are not accepting rules to play by and one of them (U.S.A.) reserves for themselves the right to a much larger appropriation than the proportional share. It is hard to see how to establish rules acceptable to all with this start point.

It seems that we live in a world with one superpower. The developed countries, under U.S. leadership, try to maintain their high level of resource appropriation. I see cooperation with the elites in the lesser developed countries, elites, who maintain equally high level of resource utilization. I imagine a economic model with only 3 players: (1) the population in the developed countries, (2) the elites and (3) the poor populations in the lesser developed countries. If each player serves his own interest, development will not happen and resource utilization will remain skewed. The majority of the world population is in the third group (poor population in lesser developed countries), making for a dangerous, non-equilibrium situation.

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