Collapse Volume VI, 96–194


New Ecologies (Interview)


The many dire environmental warnings to which we have become accustomed all have their basis in predictive models devised by scientists. But what degree of confidence can we place in such models, and on what basis are they constructed? Scientists in the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group at Microsoft’s Computational Science Lab, based in Cambridge, England are working at the cutting edge of environmental science, devising new methods to computationally model climate change and its effects. This work involves adapting statistical methods to reflect the particularities of the extremely complex and interconnected objects of biology and ecology.
In Collapse’s interview with four of the scientists working at the Lab, we discuss the new impetus that environmental concerns have imparted to ecology as a science, demanding a re-examination of its objects and its aims. They describe the delicate compromises that must be made between tractability, complexity, and the urgency of the problems which they are addressing, and the necessary confrontations with the historical scientific legacy involved in rethinking the biosphere. In this process, new models of scientific thought and practice are emerging…