A multilevel evolutionary framework for sustainability analysis

Timothy M. Waring, Michelle Ann Kline, Jeremy S. Brooks, Sandra H. Goff, John Gowdy, Marco A. Janssen, Paul E. Smaldino, Jennifer Jacquet

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Sustainability theory can help achieve desirable social-ecological states by generalizing lessons across contexts and improving the design of sustainability interventions. To accomplish these goals, we argue that theory in sustainability science must (1) explain the emergence and persistence of social-ecological states, (2) account for endogenous cultural change, (3) incorporate cooperation dynamics, and (4) address the complexities of multilevel social-ecological interactions. We suggest that cultural evolutionary theory broadly, and cultural multilevel selection in particular, can improve on these fronts. We outline a multilevel evolutionary framework for describing social-ecological change and detail how multilevel cooperative dynamics can determine outcomes in environmental dilemmas. We show how this framework complements existing sustainability frameworks with a description of the emergence and persistence of sustainable institutions and behavior, a means to generalize causal patterns across social-ecological contexts, and a heuristic for designing and evaluating effective sustainability interventions. We support these assertions with case examples from developed and developing countries in which we track cooperative change at multiple levels of social organization as they impact social-ecological outcomes. Finally, we make suggestions for further theoretical development, empirical testing, and application.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    JournalEcology and Society
    Volume20
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

    Fingerprint

    sustainability
    persistence
    cultural change
    evolutionary theory
    social organization
    social impact
    heuristics
    developing world
    analysis

    Keywords

    • Cooperation
    • Cultural evolution
    • Multilevel selection
    • Sustainability
    • Theory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology

    Cite this

    Waring, T. M., Kline, M. A., Brooks, J. S., Goff, S. H., Gowdy, J., Janssen, M. A., ... Jacquet, J. (2015). A multilevel evolutionary framework for sustainability analysis. Ecology and Society, 20(2). https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07634-200234

    A multilevel evolutionary framework for sustainability analysis. / Waring, Timothy M.; Kline, Michelle Ann; Brooks, Jeremy S.; Goff, Sandra H.; Gowdy, John; Janssen, Marco A.; Smaldino, Paul E.; Jacquet, Jennifer.

    In: Ecology and Society, Vol. 20, No. 2, 01.06.2015.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Waring, TM, Kline, MA, Brooks, JS, Goff, SH, Gowdy, J, Janssen, MA, Smaldino, PE & Jacquet, J 2015, 'A multilevel evolutionary framework for sustainability analysis', Ecology and Society, vol. 20, no. 2. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07634-200234
    Waring TM, Kline MA, Brooks JS, Goff SH, Gowdy J, Janssen MA et al. A multilevel evolutionary framework for sustainability analysis. Ecology and Society. 2015 Jun 1;20(2). https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07634-200234
    Waring, Timothy M. ; Kline, Michelle Ann ; Brooks, Jeremy S. ; Goff, Sandra H. ; Gowdy, John ; Janssen, Marco A. ; Smaldino, Paul E. ; Jacquet, Jennifer. / A multilevel evolutionary framework for sustainability analysis. In: Ecology and Society. 2015 ; Vol. 20, No. 2.
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