Complex systems

“Complex systems are composed of a large number of active elements whose rich patterns of interactions produce emergent properties that are not easy to predict by analysing the separate parts of the system.” (Elinor Ostrim 1999). Further reading here

Socio-ecological systems

C.S (Buzz) Holling pioneered the work that forms the basis of the present day research into socio-ecological systems (SESs), i.e. “linked systems of people and nature”. His initial work on non-linear dynamics in ecosystems led to the seminal 1973 paper “Resilience and stability of ecological systems” Holling was the founder of the Resilience Alliance in […]

Ecosystem Services

Excerpt from the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment “Ecosystem services are the benefits peopleobtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food, water, timber, and fiber; regulating services that affect climate, floods, disease, wastes, and water quality; cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual benefits; and supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycling. […]

Systems Thinking

“A system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organised in a way that achieves something. If you look at that definition closely for a minute, you can see that a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.” Donella Meadows Systems thinking reflects the fundamental […]

Causal loop diagrams

A causal loop diagram is a graphical depiction of cause and effect that identifies the dependencies and feedback in a system. For more on causal loop diagrams go here.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those systems and their contribution to human well-being. The MA involved the work of more than 1,360 experts worldwide. Their findings, contained in five technical volumes […]

Ecological Footprint

The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems. It is a standardized measure of demand for natural capital that may be contrasted with the planet’s ecological capacity to regenerate. The ecological footprint concept and calculation method was developed as the PhD dissertation of Mathis Wackernagel, under supervision of William Rees […]

Demographic transition

The demographic transition denotes the change from high to low birth and death rates as nations develop to modern industrialised economies. For more on the demographic transition go here.

Capital in the Twenty First Century

Piketty has analysed economic data to determine historical levels of wealth (capital) and income across the world, and its trajectory for the 21st Century. He concludes that while the rate of return on capital is greater than the rate of economic growth (which largely determines incomes from labour) wealth must concentrate and inequality must rise. For […]

Human Development Index

Living standards are measured in a variety of ways but essentially measure the material goods and necessities of life. Living standards are an important but subsidiary component of the broader notion of quality of life or human wellbeing. A broadly accepted measure of living standards on a country by country basis is the United Nations’ Human Development Index […]