Ecology and Emergent Order

Rolston, Holmes III. “Duties to Ecosystems” in J. Baird Callicott. ed., Companion to a Sand County Almanac, U. of Wisconsin, 1987.

A deceptively complex essay on environmental ethics which must be read carefully to distinguish Rolston’s position from those he criticizes. Rolston’s argument sounds in many ways almost like a translation of Hayek into ecology. But I am told that when he wrote it he was unaware of Hayek’s work.

* Rolston, Holmes III. Environmental Ethics, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.

A later and more developed explication of the same argument as in “Duties to Ecosystems”, developed in the context of an overarching environmental ethic.

* Rothschild, Michael. Bionomics: Economy as Ecosystem, New York: Henry Holt, 1990. 408 pp.

A very clear argument illustrating the profound similarities between modern ecological and evolutionary theory with market theory and economic history. A major difference is how information flows through markets and biological systems, where the latter moves genetically the former can combine and recombine in many different seemingly unconnected ways. A wealth of examples flesh out the theoretical argument. Rothschild emphasizes the many points of similarity but does not explore the interrelationship of market and ecological processes.

Worster, Donald. Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. 377 pp.

Worster’s history makes frequent reference to the interrelationship between ideas about economics and economies and ideas about ecology. For readers already well versed in the concept of emergent or spontaneous orders this offers an illuminating approach to viewing ecological science. Without such prior acquaintance the book remains very interesting but will not, on its own, help the reader with respect to the subject of this list.

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