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Tricky Times
Emory University, USA.
Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2011 (English)In: Ecology and society, Vol. 16, no 4, 31- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In many ways, the year 2011 has been extraordinary in terms of the frequency and scales of crises. We have seen exogenous environmental events such as the tsunami in the Pacific to floods in Brazil, Thailand, and the Philippines to cyclones in the heartland of the United States resulting in massive loss of lives and property. These variations in weather have not been unusual in their occurrence, but have been unusual in their impact to the human systems. In other words, these events have tested the resiliency of humans and their infrastructure. The other type of crises has been largely endogenous, namely social unrest, led by technologies that have created more connectivity, witnessed in the Arab Spring and continued with the Occupy movement. Although the longer term results are still uncertain, there can be little denying that the past year has been one of dramatic changes. The financial crisis still remains and there is overspending in many countries challenging collaborations of whole regions, like Europe. Understanding the linkages between the natural and human systems is a key theme of this journal. The journal also publishes work that attempts to explain abrupt and surprising change and how periods of gradual change can be prepared for or overwhelmed by external events. Much of resilience theory is about explaining shifts in controlling variables, whether they are ecological or social and interacting. To understand such shifts either in theory or in practice, as we are observing this year, involves questioning the extant boundaries and the processes that determine those boundaries. But this is where it gets tricky. Over long histories and through many cultures, humans have developed stories about key individuals, both real and imagined, who play critical roles transforming systems after crises. One such group is called tricksters because of their unexpected and surprising behaviors. Such individuals test existing boundaries and rules, but with positive results. These tricksters are so common that the myths appear universal. Native Americans personified these traits in the spirits of coyotes and ravens. One Greek myth had Prometheus steal fire from the gods, which has become a metaphor for the development and application of technology by humans. In more modern settings, the groups such as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters started a cultural revolution against the mores of the early 1960s in the United States. Lisbeth Salander, the heroine of Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, is one of the more recent stories depicting such roles in fiction. We emphasize the creative roles of tricksters in questioning boundaries and producing positive outcomes, and not the mean and malicious sides of such actions. Their ability to innovate and find clever paths while navigating complex problems is a trait that is similar to the scholars that contribute to this journal. The intelligent, skillful, creative, and positive attributes characterize much of the scholarship within this issue, as described in the next section. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 16, no 4, 31- p.
National Category
Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-70353DOI: diva2:480653
Available from: 2012-01-19 Created: 2012-01-19 Last updated: 2012-05-04Bibliographically approved

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Folke, Carl
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Stockholm Resilience Centre
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