Pond life: understanding the ecology of the financial crisis
Bankers have already had a barrage of abuse, so an article in New Scientist comparing them to pond life will perhaps raise few eyebrows.
But it is worth a closer look.
The popular science journal cites experts in complexity and ecology in its latest edition explaining how the financial system is a tangled network of relationships, like the ecosystem of a pond.
Normally, life ticks over just fine. But then the wrong set of circumstances – an explosion of algae, perhaps – trigger a change, throwing the whole community of life forms off balance. The result is a stagnant, smelly swamp.
“Slow changes have been accumulating for years, such as levels of indebtedness. None on their own seemed big enough to trigger a response,” says Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Environment Institute. “But then you get a trigger – one investment bank falls – and the whole system can then flip into an alternative stable state, with different rules, such as mistrust.”