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Paperback | $22.00 Short | £15.95 | ISBN: 9780262515979 | 520 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 47 illus.| January 2011

Essential Info

Sustainability or Collapse?

An Integrated History and Future of People on Earth


Human history, as written traditionally, leaves out the important ecological and climate context of historical events. But the capability to integrate the history of human beings with the natural history of the Earth now exists, and we are finding that human-environmental systems are intimately linked in ways we are only beginning to appreciate. In Sustainability or Collapse?, researchers from a range of scholarly disciplines develop an integrated human and environmental history over millennial, centennial, and decadal time scales and make projections for the future. The contributors focus on the human-environment interactions that have shaped historical forces since ancient times and discuss such key methodological issues as data quality. Topics highlighted include the political ecology of the Mayans; the effect of climate on the Roman Empire; the "revolutionary weather" of El Niño from 1788 to 1795; twentieth-century social, economic, and political forces in environmental change; scenarios for the future; and the accuracy of such past forecasts as The Limits to Growth.

About the Editors

Robert Costanza is Gordon Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.

Lisa J. Graumlich is Director of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Arizona.

Will Steffen is Director of the Center for Resource and Environmental Studies and Director of the ANU Institute of Environment at the Australian National University and Chief Scientist at the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, Stockholm.


"Costanza, Graumlich, and Steffen have assembled an amazing group of scholars from the biophysical and social sciences and the humanities; together, they take a long look back so as to take a better look forward. The resulting book offers a deep understanding of what the future has to offer—both the risks and the opportunities that face humanity."
Elinor Ostrom, Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University

"This important book presents the first installment of what promises to develop into a seminal study of human-environment interactions treated as a complex and dynamic system. We can profit greatly from this installment, while eagerly awaiting more to come."
Oran Young, Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara