This article is a review of the most recent MTE paper which claims that human-induced climate change is caused by an “ecological system” or a “system of life”. The metabolic theory of ecology is one of the most important papers ever published. It has tremendous descriptive power and has been central to what is known as the metabolic theory of ecosystem (MTE) (see my earlier posts on this for more details). However, MTE fails to account for the effects of climate change on ecosystems, which is why the theory can be used to argue that human-caused climate change is caused by an “ecosystem system of life”.
According to this theory, humans have been the dominant driver of the evolutionary process that brought about the environment and it is this dominant driver that governs the “evolution” of the ecosystem. By changing the environment we influence the evolution of the ecology, by changing the environment we can change the ecology, and so on.
In this review, I will look at what the theory does, why it is important, why it is still relevant, and what the future holds for the theory. I will conclude by proposing some future directions for this theory.
The theory starts with the assumption that humans have shaped the world to which they are adapted. Humans have become so adapted to their environments that they have evolved into a “multi-functional organism” (MOE) that involves both a biological and behavioral component. The MTE goes on to argue that humans and the environments in which they live are interdependent and can only be understood in terms of the interdependence between the two.
From this perspective, it can be argued that humans shape their environment in a number of ways, for example, the use of fire to fuel human civilization. This use of fire can be seen as part of an MTE, as can the way in which humans build structures to protect themselves from environmental influences. The MTE also suggests that humans are also shaped by climate and can only be understood in the context of climate change.
The theory also suggests that humans have been shaped by the climate to the extent that they have a self-consciously adaptive response to the changes that climate makes in their environment. This may lead to them being able to adapt to climate change, although in different ways than those who are not “shape-shifters”. It also suggests that humans have a special influence over the ecosystems in which they live, which in turn means that climate change can affect humans in a number of ways.