Has ecology found its paradigm, a paradigm that will help take humanity through the twenty-first century? Is biodiversity linked so tightly with Earth's ecosystem-level services that active intervention to maintain biodiversity and thus ensure sustainability will guide human actions in the years to come? Well, maybe. That remains to be seen.
I don't think that what ecologists describe as a paradigm shift really amounts to such a thing. I once did and even titled a talk and paper to reflect that view.1 But now I think ecologists are just seeing biodiversity in a new light, free from the once looming philosophical assumption of balance. In that sense, ecology's new paradigm is nothing more than an intellectual Neckar cube: you know, when you look at it one way it seems imbedded within the page, but looked at slightly differently, it pops out at you. It's a matter of perception. Ecologists now perceive the workings of nature as free from constraints (and thus false assumptions) imposed by assuming some optimal state of natural balance. Equilibrium models have given ground to stochastic realities. Ecology's paradigm shift is, in my opinion, nothing more than a change of perception, brought about by more robust modeling, lots of data, and a good reality check. That does not mean such a view is unimportant. Just the opposite is the case. Whether ecology has found its paradigm or not, in the broader sense, humanity should adopt a different paradigm in its view of nature and nature's services. That is really the important paradigm shift.