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Sustainability of culture-driven population dynamics
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution. Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Physics Department, University of Maribor, Slovenia.
2010 (English)In: Theoretical Population Biology, ISSN 0040-5809, E-ISSN 1096-0325, Vol. 77, no 3, 181-188 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We consider models of the interactions between human population dynamics and cultural evolution, asking whether they predict sustainable or unsustainable patterns of growth. Phenomenological models predict either unsustainable population growth or stabilization in the near future. The latter prediction, however, is based on extrapolation of current demographic trends and does not take into account causal processes of demographic and cultural dynamics. Most existing causal models assume (or derive from simplified models of the economy) a positive feedback between cultural evolution and demographic growth, and predict unlimited growth in both culture and population. We augment these models taking into account that: (1) cultural transmission is not perfect, i.e., culture can be lost; (2) culture does not always promote population growth. We show that taking these factors into account can cause radically different model behavior, such as population extinction rather than stability, and extinction rather than growth. We conclude that all models agree that a population capable of maintaining a large amount of culture, including a powerful technology, runs a high risk of being unsustainable. We suggest that future work must address more explicitly both the dynamics of resource consumption and the cultural evolution of beliefs implicated in reproductive behavior (e.g., ideas about the preferred family size) and in resource use (e.g., environmentalist stances).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 77, no 3, 181-188 p.
Keyword [en]
Sustainable development, Population dynamics, Cumulative culture, Mathematical modeling
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-38240DOI: 10.1016/j.tpb.2010.01.004ISI: 000276751300005OAI: diva2:308127
Available from: 2010-04-06 Created: 2010-04-06 Last updated: 2011-11-23Bibliographically approved

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Ghirlanda, StefanoEnquist, Magnus
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Centre for the Study of Cultural EvolutionDepartment of Zoology
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