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Complexity and Sustainability, Part II: Ecological Complexity.
Allen, Timothy1, Zellmer, Amanda 1, 1 Botany Dept., Madison, WI, USA
ABSTRACT- Complexity, less a matter of material nature, is more a question of normative values. With a paradigm there is agreement on structure vs. behavior, continuity vs. discreteness, meaningful change vs. dynamics, all reflecting a level of analysis. Paradigms get rid of ambiguity by fiat; the system may remain complicated, but it is simple, not complex. Without a paradigm, the above distinctions remain unspecified, and complexity emerges from the infinite possibilities for defining experience of whatever is beyond our observational choices and conceptual frame. So non-linearity, emergence, uncertainty, difficulty predicting, chaotic behavior, and multiplicative ambiguous relationships are not directly material considerations, but are a consequence of not having decided completely on how to look at and specify the system. In complex organized structures, there is a loop between observable structures, such as salmon, and a context that generates those structures. There is another loop that also passes through those same structures, and defines them into a class, say endangered species, that amounts to a model. Returning from the class closes the modeling loop in verification of membership. Both loops involve change: in the models of those structures; in the context of the structures themselves. If the contextual loop breaks, then without a viable context the structures we seek to sustain, be they social, economic or biogeophysical, begin to fail. On the modeling side, if the scientist/manager fixates on some level of toxicity or rule such as the 50/500 rule for endangered species, then the science/management gets stuck, and is left behind by the other loop involving context. Supply-side sustainability says manage from the context. Sustainability invokes long term views and models, and so is about maintaining both loops as functional. In all this it is crucial to have a firm grasp of the layers of subjectivity in the modeler/manager.
Key words: managing complexity, hierarchy theory, Supply-side sustainabity, dynamic context