Lessons for human survival in a world without ecological templates: what can we learn from small-scale societies?


Historical records are incomplete templates for preparing for an uncertain future. The global utility of past ecological knowledge for present/future purposes is questioned as we move from Holocene to Anthropocene. To increase the adaptive capacity of today’s societies, generalizable strategies must be identified for coping with uncertainty over a wide range of conditions and contingencies. We identify two key principles that increase adaptive capacities, diversification and precautionary heuristics. hese sharply contrast with the present global state represented by the global production ecosystem characterized by (1) homogenization and simplification of cultural practices and resource bases; (2) increased global connectivity and forced dissolution of cultural borders; and (3) centralization and intensification of modes of resource production and extraction. We highlight that responses of smaller-scale societies to risks and uncertainties are in many cases emulated by professionals in the high reliability management in today’s critical infrastructures. This provides a modern template for managing unpredictability in the Anthropocene.

In Ecology & Society
Roope O. Kaaronen
Roope O. Kaaronen
Postdoctoral researcher

My research interests include sustainable cultural evolution, collective behaviour change and decision-making under uncertainty.