After discussing generally models in ecology and economics that combine competition, optimization and evolution, this article concentrates on models of intraspecific competition. It demonstrates the importance of diversity/inequalities within populations of species and other environments for the sustainability of their populations, given the occurrence of environmental change. This is demonstrated both for scramble (open-access) and contest competition. Implications are drawn for human populations and for industrial organization. The possibility is raised that within industry competition may not always exist between firms in all stages of the development of a new industry. Policy implications are considered. For example, it is argued that policies designed to encourage intense business competition and maximum economic efficiency have the drawback of eventually making industries highly vulnerable to exogenous economic changes.