Essays on Evolution, Social Behavior and Climate Change

  • Author / Creator
    Andrews, Jeffrey
  • Inequality, collective action, and adapting climatic variability are all central adaptive problems that shaped the evolution of our species’ sociality. Equally so, because of the internal logical structure of these challenges, each of these problems also sits at the heart of climate change. However, there has been little attempt to bridge climate change research with the evolutionary foundations of social behavior and historical change. This thesis helps build that bridge through an analysis of the evolutionary foundations of inequality aversion, leadership in collective action and how the process of adapting to climate shocks has influenced socio-political history. Using a modified dictator game, our first study explores the ontogenetic impacts that severe climate shocks have on preferences for inequality aversion. We find that acute exposure to droughts, during youth, is correlated with a greater tendency towards enviousness and spite. In our second study, we use public goods games with a leader, to test the conditions under which people are willing to accept centralized leadership. Our analysis shows that two fundamental conditions must be met for people to recognize leaders; (a) the perception of a coordination challenge and (b) high levels of mutual interest between leaders and followers. Finally, in our third paper, we explore how the process of cultural adaptation to droughts has influenced the historical development of traditional societies. We find that when the adaptive capacity of a community is stressed, people search out new strategies which then create a dynamism and uncertainty that allows for large scale macro changes to take place. Overall these studies are part of a growing body of research that applies evolutionary principles to problems related to climate change, in the hope that our knowledge can help provide solutions for our generations and those yet born

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  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.