Variable: Institutional Cycles

Each of the social institutions described above have (or create) social cycles that control the flow of relevant activities (Burch and DeLuca 1984). The legal institution, for example, creates court seasons and trial days; the leisure and sustenance institutions create hunting and fishing seasons. These institutional cycles are critical to human ecosystem functioning, for they provide guidance and predictability to the ebb and flow of human action. Institutional cycles can be measured in terms of frequency (the number of times that persons or groups participate), duration (such as the length of a hunting season), proportion (the percentage of the population involved), or intensity (the depth of the meaning assigned to the cycle, suc as the funeral of a national leader). Changes in institutional cycles may directly impact the use of natural resources (for example, a year-round school calendar diversifying park-going patterns), and importantly, the conduct of commerce (such as fishing seasons, field-burning periods, or fiscal year cycles of funding).

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