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Sat Dec 15, 2012, 10:41 AM

Coolest AGU Paper Of 2012-"Is The Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility Of Environmental Management

Yes, geophysicist Brad Werner actually titled his talk at the huge American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting last week, “Is Earth F**ked?” The talk’s abstract (searchable here) appeared to offer a pessimistic answer:

"In sum, the dynamics of the global coupled human-environmental system within the dominant culture precludes management for stable, sustainable pathways and promotes instability."

We have met the enemy and they are us! But Werner, who works at the Complex Systems Laboratory at UC San Diego, offers hope in the subtitle, “Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism.” Slate‘s Jonathan Mingle attended the talk and reports on the source of Werner’s pessimism and optimism in his piece, “Scientists Ask Blunt Question on Everyone’s Mind: Why Earth and atmospheric scientists are swearing up a storm and getting arrested.”

"The bulk of Werner’s talk, as it turned out, was not profane or prophetic but was a fairly technical discussion of a “preliminary agent-based numerical model” of “coupled human-environmental systems.” He described a computer model he is building of the complex two-way interaction between people and the environment, including how we respond to signals such as environmental degradation, using the same techniques he employs to simulate the dynamics of natural systems such as permafrost, glaciers, and coastal landscapes. These tools, he argued, can lead to better decision-making. Echoing Anderson and Bows, he claimed it as a legitimate part of a physical scientist’s domain. “It’s really a geophysics problem,” he said. “It’s not something that we can just leave to the social scientists or the humanities.”

Active resistance by concerned groups of citizens, analogous to the anti-slavery and civil rights movements of the past, is one of the features of the planetary system that plays an important role in his model. If you think that we should take a much longer view when making decisions about the health of the “coupled human-environmental system”—that is to say, if you’re interested in averting the scenario in which the Earth is f**ked—then, Werner’s model implied, resistance is the best and probably only hope. Every other element—environmental regulation, even science—is too embedded in the dominant economic system."



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Reply Coolest AGU Paper Of 2012-"Is The Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility Of Environmental Management (Original post)
hatrack Dec 2012 OP
limpyhobbler Dec 2012 #1

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Sat Dec 15, 2012, 02:23 PM

1. K&R - good read

Kudos to Werner for being willing to reduce the complex issue to the one simple question on everyone’s mind. Let’s hope he is right about the possibility for activism to turn the tide.

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