Socioecological Transitions and Global Change
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Socioecological Transitions and Global Change

Trajectories of Social Metabolism and Land Use

Edited by Marina Fischer-Kowalski and Helmut Haberl

This significant new book analyses fundamental changes in society-nature interaction: the socioeconomic use of materials, energy and land. The volume presents a number of case studies addressing transitions from an agrarian to an industrial socioecological regime, analysed within the materials and energy flow accounting (MEFA) framework. It is argued that by concentrating on the biophysical dimensions of change in the course of industrialization, social development issues can be explicitly linked to changes in the natural environment.
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Chapter 8: Conclusions: Likely and Unlikely Pasts, Possible and Impossible Futures

Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Helmut Haberl and Fridolin Krausmann


Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Helmut Haberl and Fridolin Krausmann 8.1 WHAT DO WE NEED TO LEARN? This book aims to present an innovative way of looking on humanity’s development in the last few centuries by focusing on its biophysical aspects. It complements more traditional views on the recent past, such as those developed within history, sociology, economics, ecology, meteorology, or geophysics, with an interdisciplinary approach that is driven by the quest to understand the interrelations between these domains. This is done by looking at changes in the interrelations between societies and their natural environment during transitions from the agrarian to the industrial socioecological regime. In particular, we analyse changes in patterns in socioeconomic metabolism and land use as key elements of socioecological systems. Our core message is the following: on the global level, we are still in the midst of a transition that started more than 300 years ago, a transition from an agrarian – that is, land-based – to an industrial socioecological regime based on fossil fuels. Regions in the global North and regions in the global South are at different points of this ongoing transition. Global interdependencies modify the process so that it is not simply repetitive across time and regions. When we strive for a further transition, towards a more sustainable society, as a transformation of our current patterns of living, of production and consumption, we need to be aware that roughly two-thirds of the people on Earth living on more than two-thirds of the world’s land area are still...

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