Of models and meanings: cultural resilience in socio-ecological systems

Produced as part of the Adaptation to climate change and human development CCCEP research programme theme

Abstract of Working Paper 37

Modeling has emerged as a key technology in analysis of socio-ecological systems.

However, modelling tends to focus on the mechanistic materiality of biophysical systems, which obscures the diversity of performative social behaviours and normative cultural positions of actors within the modelled system.

The fact that changes in the biophysical system can be culturally constructed in different ways means that the perception and pursuit of adaptive pathways can be highly variable.

The adoption of biophysically resilient livelihoods can also occur under conditions that are subjectively experienced as the radical transformation of cultural systems.

The objectives of this paper are to

  1. highlight the importance of understanding the place of culture within socio-ecological systems;
  2. explore the tensions between empirical and normative positions in the analysis of socio-ecological resilience; and
  3. suggest how empirical modelling of socio-ecological systems can synergistically interact with normative aspects of livelihoods and lifeways.