- New Paths into the Anthropocene: Applying Historical Ecologies to the Human Future
- Thinking Like An Archaeologist and Thinking Like an Engineer: A Utilitarian-Perspective Archaeology
- Expedience, Impermanence, and Unplanned Obsolescence: The Coming-About of Agricultural Features and Landscapes
- Just How Long Does ‘Long-Term’ Have to Be? Matters of Temporal Scale as Impediments to Interdisciplinary Understanding in Historical Ecology
- Archaeology, Historical Sciences, and Environmental Conservation
- Landscaping, Landscape Legacies, and Landesque Capital in Pre-Columbian Amazonia
- Integrating Geoarchaeology with Archaeology for Interdisciplinary Understanding of Societal–Environmental Relations
- Digging for Indigenous Knowledge: ‘Reverse Engineering’ and Stratigraphic Sequencing as a Potential Archaeological Contribution to Sustainability Assessments
- Linking the Past and Present of the Ancient Maya: Lowland Land Use, Population Distribution, and Density in the Late Classic Period
- Paleozoology Is Valuable to Conservation Biology
- Historic Molecules Connect the Past to Modern Conservation
- Community and Conservation: Documenting Millennial Scale Sustainable Resource Use at Lake Mývatn, Iceland
- Soils, Plants, and Texts: An Archaeologist’s Tool-Box
- Grappling with Interpreting and Testing People–Landscape Dynamics
- From Narratives to Algorithms: Extending Archaeological Explanation beyond Archaeology
- Growing the Ancient Maya Social-Ecological System from the Bottom Up
- Wells, Land, and History: Archaeology and Rural Development in Southern Africa
- Participatory Checking and the Temporality of Landscapes: Increasing Trust and Relevance in Qualitative Research
- Freelisting as a Tool for Assessing Cognitive Realities of Landscape Transformation: A Case Study from Amazonia
- A 1980 Attempt at Reviving Ancient Irrigation Practices in the Pacific: Rationale, Failure, and Success
- The Invisible Landscape: The Etruscan <i>Cuniculi</i> of Tuscania as a Determinant of Present-Day Landscape and a Valuable Tool for Sustainable Water Management
- The Rehabilitation of Pre-Hispanic Agricultural Infrastructure to Support Rural Development in the Peruvian Andes: The Work of the Cusichaca Trust
- Applied Archaeology in the Americas: Evaluating Archaeological Solutions to the Impacts of Global Environmental Change
- Indigenous Technologies, Archaeology, and Rural Development in the Andes: Three Decades of Trials in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru
- Quality of Life and Prosperity in Ancient Households and Communities
- Applied Perspectives on Pre-Columbian Maya Water Management Systems: What are the Insights for Water Security?
- Beyond Rhetoric: Towards a Framework for an Applied Historical Ecology of Urban Planning
- Culture, Power, History: Implications for Understanding Global Environmental Change
- Energy Gain and the Evolution of Organization
- Conclusion: Anthropocentric Historical Ecology, Applied Archaeology, and the Future of a Usable Past
Abstract and Keywords
The evolution of complexity is one of the long-standing concerns of historical science, as well as being crucial to understanding the modern world and our future. This chapter explores the connection of complexity to energy gain, energy return on investment, and the energy–complexity spiral. The connection of energy gain to complexity is illustrated by case studies of fungus-farming ants and the Roman Empire. A comprehensive set of propositions explores the relationship of energy gain to complexity, evolution, resource use, system duration, and scarcity and abundance. These propositions can be applied to further research, and provide a framework for developing questions about cultural evolution and resource use. Finally, the relationship of energy gain to complexity is used to explore our future energy use and its relationship to land conversion, environmental damage, and return on alternative energy sources.
Joseph A. Tainter is Professor of Sustainability in the Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University. He is the author of The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press, 1988), and co-editor of The Way the Wind Blows: Climate, History, and Human Action (Columbia University Press, 2000). With T. F. H. Allen and T. W. Hoekstra he wrote Supply-Side Sustainability (Columbia University Press, 2003). His most recent book is Drilling Down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma, with Tadeusz Patzek (Copernicus Books, 2012). Tainter has previously taught at the University of New Mexico and Arizona State University.
T. F. H. Allen is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1982 he published Hierarchy: Perspectives for Ecological Complexity with T. B. Starr (University of Chicago Press) which will appear in second edition in 2017. In 1986 he collaborated in the Princeton monograph A Hierarchical Concept of Ecosystems. He wrote Toward a Unified Ecology with T. W. Hoekstra (Columbia University Press, 1992), which appeared in a second edition in 2015. He went on to write Hierarchy Theory: A Vision, Vocabulary and Epistemology with V. Ahl (Columbia University Press, 1996). In 1998 he joined a team of writers in the textbook Ecology (Oxford University Press) and in 2003 he authored Supply-Side Sustainability with Joseph Tainter and T. W. Hoekstra (Columbia University Press). All the time his issues are scale and emergence in complex systems.
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