Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World

Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World

Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World

Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World

Synopsis

Arms races among invertebrates, intelligence gathering by the immune system and alarm calls by marmots are but a few of nature's security strategies that have been tested and modified over billions of years. This provocative book applies lessons from nature to our own toughest security problems--from global terrorism to the rise of infectious disease to natural disasters. Written by a truly multidisciplinary group including paleobiologists, anthropologists, psychologists, ecologists, and national security experts, it considers how models and ideas from evolutionary biology can improve national security strategies ranging from risk assessment, security analysis, and public policy to long-term strategic goals.

Excerpt

Disease, resource scarcity, natural disasters, conflicts, and deadly conflict have threatened human societies for thousands of years. But these threats are not unique to humans. In fact, the rest of the biological world has faced them for over 3.5 billion years. Biological organisms have developed millions of responses to these threats, as evidenced by the incredible diversity of body forms, behaviors, and other methods of surviving and reproducing. Some of these responses have been wildly successful, others less so. Yet even among the extinct forms that we know of, many enjoyed a tenure on Earth longer than the years that humans have inhabited the planet. There is much that humans can learn from biological organisms about how to maintain security in a hostile environment. Increasingly, biological organisms and their behaviors are being used as guides to understand and improve economics, medicine, computing, robotics, and energy production (Nesse and Williams 1994; Benyus 1997; Vermeij 2004). Strikingly, the very features that allow organisms to survive and reproduce against a wide range of threats have never been fully probed for their ability to improve our own security.

The blueprints for these biological security systems are not classified but are laid out in fossil organisms, in fragments of DNA, and in the observable behaviors of the organisms themselves. The patterns that emerge raise questions that have immediate resonance for security studies. Why did some animals survive the mass extinctions of the past and not others? How does the immune system identify and respond to the multitude of potential pathogens it is faced with? Why did animals run uphill to safety well in advance of the December 2004 tsunami that killed over 230,000 people in the Indian Ocean region?

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