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Our Planet

Our Planet: How much more can Earth take?

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Haus Publishing
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Our Planet
    Book Description:

    For more than thirty years, scientists from various disciplines have warned that the constant increase in world population and exponential world economic growth are seriously threatening our ecosystems. The vision on which this book is based is of an ongoing, adaptable societal process which leads the world down the path towards sustainability. In this vision, the speed of global environmental changes will be drastically reduced without forgoing the good life; at the same time prosperity will be distributed more fairly.

    eISBN: 978-1-906598-57-0
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-viii)
  3. Editor’s Foreword (pp. ix-xx)
    Klaus Wiegandt

    Sales of the German-language edition of this series have exceeded all expectations. The positive media response has been encouraging, too. Both of these positive responses demonstrate that the series addresses the right topics in a language that is easily understood by the general reader. The combination of thematic breadth and scientifically astute, yet generally accessible writing, is particularly important as I believe it to be a vital prerequisite for smoothing the way to a sustainable society by turning knowledge into action. After all, I am not a scientist myself; my background is in business.

    A few months ago, shortly after...

  4. Authors’ Foreword (pp. xxi-xxii)
    Jill Jäger, Lisa Bohunovsky, Stefan Giljum, Fritz Hinterberger, Ines Omann and Doris Schnepf

    In April 2005, Klaus Wiegandt traveled to Vienna to discuss his ambitious project “Forum for Responsibility” with Jill Jäger. He was looking for an author for the first book of his planned series; a book which was to explore the many aspects of global change and provide an introduction to the topic of sustainability.

    Jill Jäger was pleased to accept the offer and accomplished this undertaking as part of her work at the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) in Vienna. SERI is a European network which researches sustainable development options for European societies. The institute examines the ecological, economic, social,...

  5. Introduction (pp. 1-5)

    This book is the introductory volume to the series “Forum for Responsibility.” It gives a description of our current situation on Earth and delineates possible actions we can take. When we discuss topics treated more comprehensively in other books of the series, we refer the reader to them.

    Our main motivation for writing this book was the fact that the situation on our planet is much more dramatic than many people believe. However, we also wanted to show that there are things people can do. Instead of an extensive introduction, the following ten questions and answers delineate the issues we...

  6. 1 Global Change (pp. 6-42)

    Everyone is talking about “global change.” In a nutshell, the term signifies the many transformations that our planet is undergoing at an increasing rate. In this chapter, we discuss the patterns and causes. In short, the changes are caused by the population explosion in the second half of the 20th century and by human economic activity, which has been steadily on the rise since the Industrial Revolution. Both developments have led to our planet changing at an ever-increasing speed. We provide a brief sketch of the most important changes in this context and their interconnectedness in the Earth system.


  7. 2 The Earth System (pp. 43-76)

    The Earth is a complex system consisting of many closely interconnected subsystems. As we have described in the first chapter, this means that human interference has diverse, often unpredicted or undesired, impacts. If everything on our planet functioned according to the simple principle of cause and effect, it would be possible to solve environmental, economic, or social problems simply by intervening at the right point. In reality however, there is usually not justonepoint – and when you think you’ve found it, it often does something completely different, or there are other unwanted side effects that accompany the intended effect....

  8. 3 Resource Use – We’re Living Beyond Our Means (pp. 77-110)

    In light of the interconnections of the Earth system described above, it is clear that “environmental problems” cannot be understood as isolated individual events; rather they present a challenge to the entire system of humans and our environment. Therefore, suitable responses to these challenges should not focus on individual problems either, but always on the entire system. It’s all or nothing! This is why we need a comprehensive view of the totality of all human-induced changes to the ecosphere. That is the focus of this chapter. Natural resources in the form of material and energy, as well as the area...

  9. 4 Visions of a Sustainable Future (pp. 111-138)

    In the preceding chapters, we put forward the challenges that the world’s societies are facing. They must be met differently in the “North” and in the “South,” but the overriding goal is just and sustainable development – meaning the responsible use of natural capital and closing the gap between “poor” and “rich.” If we are to achieve sustainable development, we must drastically reduce resource consumption, particularly in those areas where the global consumer class is concentrated (North America, Europe, and Japan); allowing poorer areas of the world to catch up without themselves “overusing” nature. It is a matter of the just...

  10. 5 Paths Towards Sustainability (pp. 139-169)

    Let us sum up what we have elaborated so far: Global change is taking place to an extent that threatens the foundation of life on Earth. Global change must not be equated with climate change, it is much more than that alone. Human activities transform the Earth’ surface, biological diversity, the quantity and quality of drinking water, the oceans, and much more. To complicate things further, Earth is a complex and interconnected system. We need to understand this system in order to ensure that our interventions lead to the results we desire. Since, however, we have already caused undesirable changes,...

  11. Glossary (pp. 170-179)
  12. References (pp. 180-190)