Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 551015
Title Dancing on the volcano: Social exploration in times of discontent
Author(s) Carpenter, Stephen R.; Folke, Carl; Scheffer, Marten; Westley, Frances R.
Source Ecology and Society 24 (2019)1. - ISSN 1708-3087
DOI https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-10839-240123
Department(s) WIMEK
Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2019
Keyword(s) Anthropocene - Complex systems - Pathways - Resilience - Terror management theory - Transformation
Abstract

Radical recent developments such as Brexit, the rise of extreme nationalism, the gilets jaunes, polarizing leaders, the Arab Spring, and fundamentalist movements are indications of societal discontent with the status quo. Other societal phenomena such as gender fluidity, veganism, and bartering are also associated with a perceived need to change. The context is the Anthropocene, a human-dominated biosphere challenging the resilience of a livable planet. Such a broad set of developments may be interpreted in the light of new insights from theory of complex systems about what happens as resilience of the current pathway (societal organization as we know it) decreases. Rising fluctuations characterize a phase of uncertainty and exploration, potentially leading into a transition of the system toward a new pathway. We reflect on global changes that may contribute to social destabilization such as rising wealth concentration and environmental degradation and ask how responses may be understood from social-psychological forces such as the need for group identity and managing the terror of mortality. The emerging image is that of a society engaged in multifaceted experimentation. Maintaining such experimentation may help inspire novel pathways to desirable futures, but there is a risk of societies becoming trapped in backward-looking narratives that threaten long-term sustainable outcomes.

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