Humans have difficulty thinking at a global scale. Yet as we come to understand our planet as a single, interconnected, complex system and encounter compelling evidence of human impact on Earth's climate and biosphere, the need for a truly global effort is increasingly urgent. In this concise and accessible text, David P. Turner presents an overview of global environmental change and a synthesis of research and ideas from the rapidly evolving fields of earth system science and sustainability science that is suitable for anyone interested in humanity's current predicaments and what we can do about them.
The Green Marble examines Earth's past, contemporary human disruption, and the prospects for global environmental governance. Turner emphasizes the functioning of the biosphere – the totality of life on Earth – including its influence on geologic history, its sensitivity to human impacts, and its possible role in ameliorating climate change. Relying on models of the earth system that synthesize vast amounts of monitoring information and recent research on biophysical processes, The Green Marble describes a range of scenarios for our planetary home, exploring the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and factors such as economic globalization. Turner juxtaposes cutting-edge ideas from both the geosciences and the social sciences to illustrate how humanity has arrived upon its current dangerous trajectory, and how we might pull back from the brink of civilization-challenging environmental change. Growing out of the author's popular course on global environmental change, The Green Marble is accessible to non-science majors and provides a framework for understanding the complex relationship of humanity to the global environment.
List of Abbreviations
1. Earth System Science
2. Earth’s Geosphere, Biosphere, and Climate
3. The Evolution of the Biosphere
4. Technosphere Impacts on the Global Biogeochemical Cycles
5. Technosphere Impacts on the Biosphere
6. Scenarios of Global Environmental Change
7. Globalization and Ecological Modernization
8. Global Environmental Governance
9. Global Monitoring
10. Integrating Social and Ecological Systems
11. Key Concepts for a New Planetary Paradigm
Lexicon of the Spheres
David P. Turner is a research professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University.
"From 4.5 billion years of Earth history to the future of civilization, The Green Marble provides a broad sweep of humanity's interwoven dependence on the planet's elegant biogeochemical cycles and self-regulating feedbacks that maintain a climate suitable for life. Anyone interested in the Earth's life support system will find a wealth of deep insights into the emerging field of Earth system science."
– Ruth DeFries, Denning Professor of Sustainable Development, Columbia University
"The Green Marble introduces earth systems as spheres: the noösphere formed when human actions attained a sufficient magnitude to alter the planet, the biosphere or the total life on Earth, the hydrosphere, the technosphere. David P. Turner interweaves planetary systems, large-scale human actions, and the risk of global system failures in this rich text to provide a readable, systems-oriented, intellectually rich narrative on understanding the deep global issues that we face today."
– Herman H. Shugart, W.W. Corcoran Professor of Natural History, University of Virginia
"This book takes us on a journey around the biosphere at all scales, from cellular details of photosynthesis to global biome distributions, and in time, from four billion years ago as life began to thousands of years into the future with a changing climate. It is exceedingly rare for a single text to cover the natural and social sciences on global environmental change and to take the intellectual risk of offering big solutions. The end result is a very readable book that should catalyze the type of thought-provoking class discussions all good teachers desire."
– Steven Running, Emeritus Regents Professor of Ecology, University of Montana
"The challenge presented in this book is to acknowledge the role of humans in Earth's future and in potential strategies to sustain it. Recommended."