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Ecological economic systems analysis: order and chaos

  • Robert Costanza

Abstract

Systems analysis is the study of systems, groups of interacting, interdependent parts linked together by complex exchanges of energy, matter, and information. There is a key distinction between ‘classical’ science and system science. Classical (or reductionist) science is based on the resolution of phenomena into isolatable causal trains and the search for basic, ‘atomic’ units or parts of the system. Classical science depends on weak or non-exsistent interaction between parts and essentially linear relations among the parts, so that the parts can be added together to give the behaviour of the whole. These conditions are not met in the entities called systems. A ‘system’ is characterized by strong (usually non-linear) interactions between the parts, feedbacks (making resolution into isolatable causal trains difficult or impossible) and the inability to simply ‘add-up’ small-scale behaviour to arrive at large-scale results (von Bertalanffy, 1968). Ecological and economic systems obviously exhibit these characteristics of systems, and are not well understood using the methods of classical, reductionist science.

Keywords

Network Analysis Ecosystem Model Precautionary Principle Scientific Uncertainty Performance Bond 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • Robert Costanza

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