INTRODUCTION
. . .
Emergent dynamics can destroy the existing order. Microbes that become
emergent diseases—by finding novel exploits, pathways of transmission,
or modes of existence—can quickly transform dominant political strate-
gies, economic systems, or agricultural practices.1 Emergences can also
figure into collective hopes.2 When a forest is clear-cut by loggers or de-
stroyed by a volcanic eruption, emergent plants are the first to sprout.
Nascent associations are able to exploit faults and fissures within estab-
lished assemblages. They contain the promise of supplanting deeply rooted
structures. Materializing in interstitial spaces, between divided forces,
emergent forms of life can disrupt ostensibly unified systems. False starts
in one direction can become significant beginnings along a new vector.
Flying in the face of long-term agendas, unexpected detours and happy
accidents can generate a novel sense of order.3
Emergent Ecologies is a study of multispecies communities that have
been formed and transformed by chance encounters, historical accidents,
and parasitic invasions. Insights from contemporary philosophy are used
to reframe key problems in the field of conservation biology—relating
to invasive species, extinctions, environmental management, and refor-
estation. Following the flight of capital and the trajectories of multiple
species across national borders and through fragmented landscapes of the
American tropics—from Panama to Costa Rica to the United States and
back again—this book asks: How do certain plants, animals, and fungi
move among worlds, navigate shifting circumstances, and find emergent
opportunities? When do new species add value to ecological associations,
and when do they become irredeemably destructive? When should we let
unruly forms of life run wild, and when should we intervene? Instead of
regarding the past as a legacy that should always be restored, this book
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