Environmental Futures

What will the planet look like in the future? What are the social, environmental, economic, and political implications? What is the role of governance? How will civil society respond to the challenges? These are just some of the many questions that dominate the field of interdisciplinary environmental studies in the face of a rapidly changing environment. Undoubtedly, the physical environment has undergone significant, natural changes throughout the history of the Earth. However, recently, with the explosion of human populations and the accompanying needs and demands, the rate of change and the magnitude of impacts have become worrisome and it is becoming increasingly evident that human activities are the driving force behind the changes that are taking place today. Whether it is food and shelter demands, our appetite for consumption or an addiction to fossil fuels, the accompanying consequences such as species extinction, deforestation, massive oil spills, retreating glaciers, environmental injustices, a diminishing ozone layer, conflicts over increasingly scarcer resources, droughts, floods, etc., demonstrate that our global environment is being pushed to its limits and vulnerable populations are already feeling the consequences of a changing environment. Will technological innovation and ingenuity coupled with increasing awareness and concern be enough to transform societies into more sustainable models of consumption and production?


  • Surviving the Population Bomb Featured News Article Surviving the Population Bomb Surviving the Population Bomb

    An April 1, 2011, News Release from the University of Michigan: World population will reach 7 billion this year, prompting new concerns about whether the world will soon... More »

  • Environmental Lessons from China Featured Article Environmental Lessons from China Environmental Lessons from China

    This Commentary, written by Justin V. Remais and Junfeng Zhang*, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the... More »

  • Climate Change Escape Routes Featured News Article Climate Change Escape Routes Climate Change Escape Routes

    One if by Land, Two if by Sea? Climate Change "Escape Routes" Similar movement rates needed for animals and plants on land and in the oceans One if by land, two if by... More »

  • Living in a contaminated world Featured Article Living in a contaminated world Living in a contaminated world

    Humankind is now in its third generation since the chemical revolution—circa 1940. The myriad dimensions and implications of this worldwide phenomenon and its actual and... More »

  • Earth's Changing Ice Cover Featured Article Earth's Changing Ice Cover Earth's Changing Ice Cover

    This article, written by Charles W. Schmidt, a freelance writer specializing in science, medicine and technology, appeared first in Environmental Health... More »

Recently Updated
Management and Conservation of Wildlife in a Changing Arctic Environment Last Updated on 2014-07-07 18:45:12 This is Chapter 11 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Lead Author: David R. Klein; Contributing Authors: Leonid M. Baskin, Lyudmila S. Bogoslovskaya, Kjell Danell, Anne Gunn, David B. Irons, Gary P. Kofinas, Kit M. Kovacs, Margarita Magomedova, Rosa H. Meehan, Don E. Russell, Patrick Valkenburg Climate changes in the Arctic in the past have had major influences on the ebb and flow in availability of wildlife to indigenous peoples and thus have influenced their distribution and the development of their cultures.Trade in animal parts, especially skins and ivory of marine mammals, and trapping and sale of fur-bearing animals go far back in time. Responsibility for management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic falls heavily on the residents of the Arctic, but also on the global community that shares in the use of arctic resources. A sense of global stewardship toward the... More »
Healthy Community Design Last Updated on 2014-06-29 19:10:40 The way we design and build our communities can affect our physical and mental health. Healthy community design integrates evidence-based health strategies into community planning, transportation, and land-use decisions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that healthy community design can improve people’s health by: Increasing physical activity; Reducing injury; Increasing access to healthy food; Improving air and water quality; Minimizing the effects of climate change; Decreasing mental health stresses; Strengthening the social fabric of a community; and Providing fair access to livelihood, education, and resources. According to the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of infirmity. A healthy community as described by the U.S. Department of Health and... More »
Key findings, science gaps, and recommendations for freshwater ecosystems in the ACIA Last Updated on 2014-06-24 17:51:50 This is Section 8.8 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Lead Authors: Frederick J.Wrona,Terry D. Prowse, James D. Reist; Contributing Authors: Richard Beamish, John J. Gibson, John Hobbie, Erik Jeppesen, Jackie King, Guenter Koeck, Atte Korhola, Lucie Lévesque, Robie Macdonald, Michael Power,Vladimir Skvortsov,Warwick Vincent; Consulting Authors: Robert Clark, Brian Dempson, David Lean, Hannu Lehtonen, Sofia Perin, Richard Pienitz, Milla Rautio, John Smol, Ross Tallman, Alexander Zhulidov In general, changes in climate and UV radiation levels in the Arctic are very likely to have far-reaching impacts, affecting aquatic species at various trophic levels, the physical and chemical environment that makes up their habitat, and the processes that act on and within freshwater ecosystems. Interactions of climatic variables such as temperature and precipitation with freshwater... More »
Population Equation Last Updated on 2014-06-11 16:19:48 This article, written by Richard Dahl, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the'National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The article is a verbatim version of the original and is not available for edits or additions by Encyclopedia of Earth editors or authors. Companion articles on the same topic that are editable may exist within the Encyclopedia of Earth. Planet Earth, now home to about 6.5 billion human beings, has thus far disproved the doomsayers. In 1798, Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus predicted that population would outrun food supply on the assumption that human numbers would increase at a geometric rate while food would be limited to arithmetic increases. Then, in 1968, Stanford University professor Paul R. Ehrlich issued a similar warning in his book The Population Bomb, in which he predicted... More »
Vertical farming Last Updated on 2014-04-02 15:58:12 The advent of agriculture ushered in an unprecedented increase in the human population and their domesticated animals. Farming catalyzed the transformation of hunter-gatherers into urban dwellers. Today, over 800 million hectares is committed to agriculture, or about 38% of the total landmass of the Earth. Farming has re-arranged the landscape in favor of cultivated fields and herds of cattle, and has occurred at the expense of natural ecozones, reducing most of them to fragmented, semi-functional units, while completely eliminating others. Undeniably, a reliable food supply has allowed for a healthier life style for most of the civilized world, while the very act of farming has created new health hazards. For example, the transmission of numerous infectious disease agents - avian influenza, rabies, yellow fever, dengue fever, malaria, trypanosomiasis, hookworm, schistosomiasis... More »