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1 November 2007 Sustainability or Collapse: What Can We Learn from Integrating the History of Humans and the Rest of Nature?
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Abstract

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 future.

Robert Costanza, Lisa Graumlich, Will Steffen, Carole Crumley, John Dearing, Kathy Hibbard, Rik Leemans, Charles Redman, and David Schimel "Sustainability or Collapse: What Can We Learn from Integrating the History of Humans and the Rest of Nature?," AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 36(7), (1 November 2007). https://doi.org/10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[522:SOCWCW]2.0.CO;2
Received: 23 October 2006; Accepted: 1 April 2007; Published: 1 November 2007
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