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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?


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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 »
Human population explosion Last Updated on 2014-02-26 17:23:15   Approximately 7.2 billion humans inhabited the Earth in year 2013. By comparison, there might be 500,000 elephants of different kinds, 200,000 chimpanzees, 100,000 gorillas, 20,000 polar bears, 3,000 tigers, 2,000 giant pandas and 200 California condors. Notably, the human population has grown about ten-fold over the past 300 years and nearly four-fold in just the last century. This monumental historical development has profoundly changed the relationship of our species to its natural support systems and has greatly intensified our environmental impact, particularly regarding species extinctions. Equally amazing are the signs that, in our generation, the human population explosion is abating (Figure 1; note that, here and below, many of the values given are estimates and, after the year 2005, projections). Our numbers are expected to rise by another 50%... More »
The North American Mosaic Last Updated on 2013-10-24 15:12:08 An Overview of Key Environmental Issues The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation obliges the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to “periodically address the state of the environment in the territories of the Parties.” To meet this obligation, the Secretariat has developed this report—The North American Mosaic: An Overview of Key Environmental Issues—with the support of environmental reporting experts from the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States. This report describes a wide variety of environmental trends and conditions across North America. The breadth and diversity of the subject are astounding: from tiny invasive zebra mussels to global greenhouse gases measured by the teragram; from the last remaining vaquita porpoises to vast expanses of boreal forests and marine ecosystems; from invisible... More »
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