Class 1 (01/08/2018): The Challenge we are Facing

Class slides.


Humanity has pushed the planet outside of the Holocene, the last geological epoch, which started 11,700 years ago. The Holocene was a period of exceptionally stable climate, and with this, it provide a “safe operating space for humanity,” in which to make a transition from being hunterers and gatherers to agriculture and an initially slow development of civilization. The recent two centuries have seen rapid changes, mainly due to more energy available to humans, and in the last 70 years, humanity has developed into the most dominant species on the planet reengineering the surface and changing the major mass cycles. At the end of the Holocene, the rapid transition to a new epoch poses a challenge to humanity that might threaten the modern global society at its core. Timely adaptation to an uncertain future is at the core of a sustainable development for humanity through this transition. However, without a deep understanding of the ethical, social, and economical issues that have put Earth's life-support system on the recent and current trajectory, it is difficult to diagnose the causes and develop a theraphy that could improve planetary health.

The class will summarize the challenge and then introduce a number of terms used in the class. At the end, adapation science will be introduced and its relation to ethical considerations will be discussed.

Reading List

Leopold (1949).

Rittel and Webber, 1973

Kates et al., 2001

Moss et al., 2013

Rockström, J., Klum, M, 2015

Steffen et al., 2015.


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