From SIMPLE PLANET
[…] Buzz Holling was instrumental in describing the adaptive cycles of complex ecological systems, and specifically he studied forest ecosystems. He identified 4 general stages of evolution in complex ecological systems (what he termed “fractal adaptive cycles”), and these could just as easily be applied to human systems that have been built on the foundation of those ecological systems (my descriptions will be greatly simplified – follow the referenced sources for more detail) :
1. Growth – The system finds an abundance of available resources and spaces which are exploited for material wealth, and this flow of energy/resources allows the development of many inter-dependencies, efficiencies and specialized functions. Diversity of agents within the system increases as does overall wealth.
2. Conservation – The system’s rapid growth decelerates as it becomes highly specialized and opportunities for novel exploitation strategies diminish. Increasing amounts of energy are directed towards conserving the existing system instead of growth, and “wealth” is extracted from the periphery to central parts of the system. The system’s complex inter-dependencies become more rigid