Topic description / abstract:
Human activity now threatens core components of the biosphere on which we depend, and urgent action is needed to resolve sustainability crises from fisheries collapse and species loss to carbon emissions and pollution. While academic sustainability research has focused on specific solutions, very little general knowledge has emerged, and two key scientific questions at the core of the sustainability crisis have not been adequately addressed: How did humans come to dominate the earth in such a short period of time? And how do human solve sustainability challenges? Dr. Waring proposes that both of these questions can be answered concretely when we consider the role of culture and cooperation in human evolution. Dr. Waring outlines how these two factors have caused the global sustainability crisis, and how they can be harnessed to solve environmental dilemmas and create positive change. Dr. Waring provides case examples of the role of cooperation in determining social and environmental outcomes, and supplies a toolkit for application in any scenario.
Dr. Waring studies how cooperation determines social and environmental outcomes at any scale. He has developed an evolutionary theory to explain the role of cooperation in environmental dilemmas, and tests it with simulation studies and behavioral experiments. Dr. Waring has led two national working groups to refine this theory and apply it to case studies around the world. He was also awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER grant to study how cooperation also determines organizational outcomes, with application to the local food economy.