Research Author: THOMAS F. MALONE, pp.13
Date: May 16,1994

For hundreds of millions of years, the changes in global environment that nourish human life have had their natural roots in the interaction of physical, chemical, and biological systems driven by solar energy. Within the last century, however, socioeconomic forces--manifestations of the expanding power of human activity on planet Earth--have emerged as a perturbing influence in that environment, strong enough to seriously deplete stratospheric ozone, to foster ominous changes in climate, and to threaten biodiversity.

At present, with the rate at which these socioeconomic forces-- along with structural changes under way within them--are growing, global society is following a trajectory that will lead, by the middle of the next century, to an unsustainable, inequitable, and unstable world. For example:

  • If regional population growth between now and 2050 were to proceed at the rates of the 1990s, world population would grow threefold...
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