Human Impact on Global Systems for Sustaining Life

Human Impact on Global Systems for Sustaining Life


Geologists use the term Anthropocene Age for the era that began with the Industrial Revolution, in which human activity steadily degrades the global systems that sustain life on our planet. Those systems include, for example, the carbon cycle and global warming and the nitrogen system, where runoff from chemical fertilizers creates dead zones in lakes and oceans. The victims include species gone or going extinct, vanishing ecosystems, and human suffering. A complex interdependence underlies the planet’s life-sustaining systems: they act in tandem with each other and in complex ways, creating safe zones for life – but have tipping points for destruction from human activity. What is the nature of a system, and what basic principles operate to sustain or degrade a system? How might interdependence be articulated as a principle across all the systems?

  • Dialogue 23
    8 sessions
  • October 17, 2011
    Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
  • ML23 Print Program |pdf|
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Diana Liverman

Diana Liverman, PhD, is the co-director of the Institute of the Environment at The University of Arizona and a professor in the School of Geography and Development. She is also affiliated with Oxford University where she is a visiting professor of Environmental Policy and Development in the School of Geography and Environment, a fellow of Linacre College, and a fellow in the Environmental Change Institute. Her degrees are from University College London (BA), University of Toronto (MA) and UCLA (PhD). Her main research interests focus on climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and climate policy and mitigation, especially in the developing world. She also works on the political economy and political ecology of environmental management in the Americas, especially in Mexico. In 2010 she was awarded the Founders Gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society for her contributions to understanding the human dimensions of environmental change and has also recently been honored with Distinguished Scholarship honors of the Association of American Geographers. Recent publications include work on carbon offsets, food security, and climate adaptation and the 4th edition of her coauthored textbook on World Regions in Global Context. She has been an active member of national and international advisory committees on global change including the US NAS Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change and the Inter American Institute (IAI) for Global Change Research. Currently she is a member of the new National Academy of Sciences Committee on America's Climate Choices which is advising the US government on responses to climate change and chaired the panel on Informing Climate Decisions. She is the chair of the scientific advisory committee international Global Environmental Change and Food Systems (GECAFS) program and editor of the Annual Review of Environment and Resources. She collaborates with several arts and cultural organizations interested in climate change.