Since 的days of 的整个地球目录, circa 1969, I’ve been concerned about 的ecological fate of 的planet. Anyone who was paying attention then could observe 的daunting threats: changing oceanic and atmospheric circulations, altered biogeochemical cycles, species extinctions, declining biodiversity, and habitat degradation. All these decades later, many of 的environmental concerns and challenges we recognized in that era remain unresolved. The scientific data is much more precise, our ability to monitor earth system changes is increasingly robust, and our understanding of 的biosphere is more sophisticated. In 2015, 气候变化 is a household word (if not a household concern), 的sustainability movement has made great strides, and 的global consequences of environmental change are much better (if still imperfectly) understood.
In 1969 there weren’t any 环境研究 programs that were named as such. You could study 生态 or forestry, or approach 的traditional disciplines with ecological topics in mind. Or you could enroll in a geography program, perhaps 的most intriguing interdisciplinary approach to environmental issues. There was an entire generation of baby boomer students who were motivated to change all of that. Indeed, my entire career was oriented around developing, designing, and implementing various approaches to 环境研究. This was a generation-wide effort. The result is profound. We now have an international network of robust 环境研究 programs at every conceivable 教育al level. These programs are further expanded with 的emergence of 可持续性 as a rubric for considering human impact on 的environment.
Take a few minutes and think about all 的words you can summon with green, eco, environmental, or 可持续的 in 的prefix. Whether it’s ecopsychology, environmental ethics, environmental economics, green business, 可持续性 科学, ecological restoration—or whatever words and concepts you might conjure—few, if any of these subjects, appeared in 的lexicon or as fitting 教育al subjects prior to 1970. The environmental literature is now profuse. We’ve come a long way conceptually and 教育ally. That’s a very good thing!
Yet environmental concerns are still trumped by seemingly more pertinent issues—economic and social 公平, health care, resurgent tribalism, violent conflict, and global poverty, among many others—and 的connections between these issues and 的ecological fate of 的planet are not easily perceived. What is 的role of 环境研究 in making those connections more clear?
Lately there has been much talk about 的meaning of 的Anthropocene, a dramatic concept suggesting that human impact on 的earth is a significant enough biospheric and ecological dynamic so as to proclaim a new era on 的geological time scale. Since atmospheric chemist 保罗·克鲁岑 proposed this term, we’ve seen an engaging literature discussing 的appropriateness, interpretation, and significance of this concept, including numerous books, websites, and even a journal (人类世, published by Elsevier). Whatever 的scientific merits of 的term, like 的equally evocative “Gaia” it is sufficiently controversial to generate interesting discussion and commentary. What I take from 的concept is that 的terms of how we conceive environmental learning are rapidly changing. Forty-five years have passed since 的first publication of 的整个地球目录. How shall we conceive of environmental learning all these years later? And how can we build on some of 的important concepts from 的first phase of 环境研究—place-based learning, 生物区域主义, wilderness conservation, ecological restoration, 自然历史 教育, environmental justice, ecological economics, global environmental governance—while we confront 的Anthropocene reality?
These are by no means inclusive categories. There are countless ways to think about environmental learning in 的Anthropocene. In my view, 环境研究 is necessarily adaptive and 的conditions that inform its structure are always in flux. Let’s launch 的conversation.
Page through any contemporary world atlas, or compare maps of 的world from 1950 to 的present, and you will observe an extraordinary planetary 城市化 process. Widen 的temporal spread slightly and you encounter a stunning statistic. In 1900, two out of every ten people lived in an urban area. By 2050, it’s projected that seven out of every ten people will be urban dwellers. To cite 的title of Naomi Klein’s book, 这改变了一切。环境研究必须将城市化作为重要的动态信息。因此，城市生态学，生态城市主义和城市可持续性等方面的方案正在兴起。博客和网站，例如 城市的本质, 下一个城市, 100个弹性城市和 城市可持续发展总监网络 reflect an exciting proliferation of solution-based ideas and projects. Cities are centers of innovation and it is likely that 的most groundbreaking ecological solutions will originate in urban systems.
Planetary 城市化 contributes to a vibrant 世界文化. Global cities include people from a great variety of cultural backgrounds. Some arrive there by virtue of choice and opportunity. Others arrive as a consequence of displacement—refugees from war, political upheaval, or environmental change, especially climate. Indeed, 的unfortunate resurgence of anti-immigration sentiment is a reactionary, fear-based response to 的inevitable planetary diaspora of people and species. Cultural diversity is parallel to biodiversity, and threats to both are equally challenging. How do people from different backgrounds learn, live, and work together? This challenge, too, should be fundamental to environmental learning in 的Anthropocene.
托马斯·皮凯蒂（Thomas Piketty）的出色作品， Capital in 的Twenty-First Century, develops 的unassailable case that 收入差距 is a structural dysfunction of modern economies. The oligarchic concentration of wealth has huge implications for human flourishing, and important ramifications for natural resource distribution and ecological services. The term “ecological 公平” brings attention to 的connection between wealth inequality and 的political economy of global environmental change. The advanced technologies and 信息网络 of 的Anthropocene have 的potential to exacerbate wealth inequality or provide interesting new solutions for wealth sharing and creation. Are there new approaches to both global environmental governance and local, bioregional 政治 that facilitate participation and engagement, and in so doing, bring 的challenge of 生态公平 to 的foreground?
信息网络的扩散 continues unabated, bringing profound changes to how people and communities organize their lives. The dual promise of 的“world wide web” provokes both excitement and ambivalence. Does it promote ubiquitous access to unlimited data or 的end of privacy? The internet, computing, and social media create new templates for how people work, how they think, and how they perceive 的biosphere. How does this impact environmental learning? Among other challenges, 它的意思是that there are entirely new professions that can potentially influence how we think about 的environment and how to organize information and learning. Marshall McLuhan was correct. The very use of these “sensory enhancing” technologies radically changes human perception.
Hence many people now learn about 的biosphere through digital means. Such virtual learning is also a dual promise. On 的one hand, environmental learning is enhanced by advanced instrumentation, allowing for 的global exchange of data, spectacular imagery, and 的ability to change perceptual scale through digitization techniques. Yet more screen time often sacrifices visceral apprehension, and interferes with 的hands-on, place-based learning that has long been 的foundation of environmental learning. Is there a useful blend of these learning venues? What is 的role of 环境研究 in navigating this boundary?
合成生物学 integrates genomic engineering, evolutionary 生物学, and biodesign. Flip through 的lavishly illustrated pages of 生物设计 by William Myers and you’ll see 的following topic headings: algal filter machine, bioencryption, aquadyne living wall, lung-on-a-chip, and carnivorous domestic robots, among dozens more. Myers intends to portray 的potential of ecologically based solutions to a wide range of issues, including medical microbiology, materials design, urban planning, and ecological engineering. The various illustrations are alternately inspiring and grotesque, natural and alien, appealing and disconcerting. In 再生, George Church and Ed Regis explore how 合成生物学 is intrinsic to 的history of life on earth, and it opens a new dimension in planetary evolution. By what basis will consumers, producers, and regulators make sense of these possibilities? And what’s 的role of 环境研究 in developing such criteria?
I was 19 years old in 1969 when I first discovered 的整个地球目录. In many respects, I’ve spent an entire career developing environmental programs that reflected 的vision and content of that wonderful book. And I still believe in many of 的ideas and possibilities in its pages. But what’s in store for today’s 19 year old, and how will she or he best prepare for 的Anthropocene? What is appropriate environmental learning in 2015? Surely today’s college student requires 的“classic” skills of analysis, interpretation, synthesis, and reflective awareness. But what subjects must be studied? And what professions will these students enter? In what ways must 的field of 环境研究 be revitalized and transformed? What 教育al institutions, research centers, museums, and learning environments will take 的necessary bold steps to initiate that transformation? In my next two columns, I’ll address these questions in more detail.