Costanza, R., Graumlich, L.J., Steffen, W., Crumley, C.L., Dearing, J.A., Hibbard, K., Leemans, R., Redman, C. and Schimel, D.
Sustainability or Collapse: What Can We Learn from Integrating the History of Humans and the Rest of Nature
AMBIO, 36, (7), . (doi:10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[522:SOCWCW]2.0.CO;2).
Understanding the history of how humans have interacted
with the rest of nature can help clarify the options for
managing our increasingly interconnected global system.
Simple, deterministic relationships between environmental
stress and social change are inadequate. Extreme
drought, for instance, triggered both social collapse and
ingenious management of water through irrigation. Human
responses to change, in turn, feed into climate and
ecological systems, producing a complex web of multidirectional
connections in time and space. Integrated
records of the co-evolving human-environment system
over millennia are needed to provide a basis for a deeper
understanding of the present and for forecasting the
future. This requires the major task of assembling and
integrating regional and global historical, archaeological,
and paleoenvironmental records. Humans cannot predict
the future. But, if we can adequately understand the past,
we can use that understanding to influence our decisions
and to create a better, more sustainable and desirable
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