"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Panarchy is a means of viewing global development, and contradicts the traditional understanding of world hierarchy as being static and impervious to change. The term was invented by Belgian political scientist Paul Emile de Puydt in 1860. The essence of panarchy is the rationalization of the historical (and contemporary) relationship between change and persistence, and likewise the predictable and unpredictable.

In its application to social and ecological systems, panarchy provides a basis for understanding the pattern of historical events by mapping them into a comparison of one series of occurrences and changes to another. The adaptive cycle encompasses four forces: exploitation, conservation, revolt, and reorganization. Panarchy places great emphasis on the fact that, no matter the social, ecological or political system, small changes can have an impact of large events and vice-versa.

The significance and importance of the adaptive cycle lies in its application to control time effects by establishing limits and a tool for comparative analysis between seemingly different systems. The iterative application of this method would lead to rolling improvements in scientific understanding and contribute in turn to better informed and continuously improving management decisions.

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