Chapter 46: Earth systems engineering and management
Braden R. Allenby Earth systems engineering and management (ESEM) is a new area of study arising from the conﬂuence of several trends in diﬀerent ﬁelds. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the globalization of the Greco-Judaeo-Christian Eurocentric civilization and its technologies, and explosive growth in human population levels and economic activity, the dynamics of many fundamental natural systems (for example, the carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus and hydrologic cycles; atmospheric and oceanic systems; the biosphere at scales from the genetic to the species and community levels) are now dominated by the activities of one species – ours (Turner et al. 1990; Ayres et al. 1994; Nriagu 1994; Smil 1997; Vitousek et al. 1997). The Earth as it now exists increasingly reﬂects the perhaps unintended and unconscious, but nonetheless real, design of a single species. Although this process has been accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, ‘natural’ and human systems on all scales have in fact been aﬀecting each other, and evolving together, for millennia, and they are now more tightly coupled than ever. Copper production in China during the Sung Dynasty, as well as in Athens and the Roman Republic and Empire, are reﬂected in deposition levels in Greenland ice (Hong et al. 1996). And lead production in ancient Athens, Rome and medieval Europe is reﬂected in increases in lead concentration in the sediments of Swedish lakes (Renberg et al. 1994). The build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began, not with the post-World War II...
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