Bridging Complexity and Ecology – Outline of Health Ecology
In 1982 Stephen Wolfram pointed up a new direction in the human inquiry: development of a general theory of complexity in nature (Wolfram, 1982; Wolfram, 2002). When projected on the conceptual space of ecology, this direction reveals a new unifying framework for ecological studies: the framework of emergent dynamic ecologies. This framework includes environmental ecology, human ecology, social ecology, deep ecology, ecology of mind, ecology of learning, and is widely open to embrace new ecological discoveries.
The term ‘ecology’ is rooted in the Greek word oekos meaning ‘house’. In the same way as the house provides a shelter for people to live, the universe provides a ‘shelter’ for the infinite manifold of unanimated and animated forms to exist and evolve together. The house – oekus – is a place where its inhabitants relate to one another and dynamically interact; ecology studies different aspects of these interrelationships and interactions. In this sense, ecology is similar to complexity science, as the latter is also focused at studying dynamic interrelationships and interactions.
While ecology explores the astonishing variety of the outward manifestations of the dynamic interactions in nature and society, complexity science tries to reveal their inner secrets: what propels them? what sustains their emergence? where does their self-organizing ability comes from and how it manifests? in what kind of patterns the interacting entities self-organize? how these patterns influence each other? what are the factors that reinforce or impede the dynamic interplay of the self-organizing patterns? what makes them evolve, transform or dissolve?
The unified framework of the emergent dynamic ecologies serves as a bridge between the two holistic branches of human inquiry: ecology and complexity, ecological exploration of the existential dynamics and the study of their self-organizing power. The unified framework does not lead only to mutual intellectual enrichment of ecology and complexity, it gives birth to new exciting areas of research.
In this paper we outline the emergence of Health Ecology – a new holistic inquiry into human and environmental health – in the general framework of emergent dynamic ecologies.