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Project:

The Evolutionary Commons

Humanity is facing an existential crisis from global climate change. Evolutionary biology has a critical role to play in how we respond. The problem fundamentally involves two evolvable variables: Ecosystems, which we depend on for survival; and Us, who have the capacity to alter those ecosystems in a way that threatens our survival. Ecosystems are complex higher-order metabolic systems, closed-loop networks of interacting inheritance systems each with their own capacities for exploiting and exploring their surroundings. Collectively, this gives rise to an Evolutionary Commons, an emergent property of ecosystems that acts as a storehouse of potential that can be unleashed when the conditions change. Evolutionary potential is what makes ecosystems robust, relatively immune to the fate of any given inheritance system, without losing the ability to break apart and reform when disturbed in proportion to the capacities for ecological fitting of their constituent members. Putting evolution to work for humanity is about recognizing that the fundamental resource in the biosphere for coping with change is the potential stored in the evolutionary commons. For our own well-being, our economic policies and strategies should reflect this. To persist indefinitely, we must preserve the biosphere and to do this we must preserve as many elements of the evolutionary process as possible. Evolution is the only way the biosphere has coped with global climate change before, and the only way it will do it again. To sustain ourselves, we must exploit the biosphere without destroying the evolutionary potential to explore. We propose the Four Laws of Biotics to guide our efforts and discuss how they inform efforts in conservation biology, coping with emerging diseases, the circular economy, and the economics of well-being.

 

Fellows involved in this project

Fellow
USA
Fellow
Canada
 

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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].