Managing Complexity: Earth Systems and Strategies for the Future: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Managing Complexity: Earth Systems and Strategies for the Future

1st Edition

By Walter R. Erdelen, Jacques G. Richardson


282 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780367000066
pub: 2018-08-17
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429445057
pub: 2018-09-03
from $27.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


Managing Complexity: Earth Systems and Strategies for the Future introduces and explores systems and complexity in relation to near-synchronous world and environmental problems. These relate to but are not limited to water, biological diversity, worldwide climate change, trade and conflict, global migration and the quest for sustainable development. Complemented by discussion of the new era of the Anthropocene, its many manifestations, and Earth system properties such as planetary boundaries and tipping points this book offers practical suggestions for how a sustainable future for humanity can be realised.

Specifically discussed in Managing Complexity: Earth Systems and Strategies for the Future are innovation, education and capacity building, application of the natural and social sciences and new paths towards sustainability based on industrial development and engineering, as well as in diplomacy and foreign aid. The book’s conclusions discuss the ambitious yet vital reforms the authors propose as routes to a sustainable existence. This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of sustainability, sustainable development and complexity theory.


"The complexity of complexity – the authors reveal how the system components interact in multiple, interdependent ways. They develop a picture on how Homo sapiens in our age of the Anthropocene crosses thresholds of Earth’s safe-operating space for humanity, describing the disastrous impact of Homo faber on climate, water, biodiversity, migration or international relations. Solutions and loopholes, emphasizing the importance of education, science, technology and innovation, make the book a "must" to read."Walter J. Ammann, Founder, Global Risk Forum GRF Davos

"Control of complexity is the central parameter of evolution. Extremely long, error-free messages are needed for control. Science is humanity’s best means for such messages and is thus the sine qua non of power in the 21st century, as this book shows."Jesse Ausubel, Director, Human Environment Project, Rockefeller University, USA

"The scale and scope of Erdelen’s and Richardson’s book is truly remarkable. Tracing the impact of human activity on the planet’s complex ecosystem and the resulting environmental problems, their broad and interdisciplinary systems approach embraces both history and foresight. The resulting linked, insightful essays culminate in the key question for the future of Homo sapiens: Do we have the ability to moderate our behavior so that we live with more measured consumption while continuing to reap considerable rewards from education, science and industry?"Colin Blackman, Centre for European Policy Studies; Editor of Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance; Former Editor of Futures, and foresight

"Science must be an essential component of any effective strategy leading to sustainable development. As the authors emphasize, science clears the mind, sobers our views and leads to robust decisions. Wise counsel from the UN’s new Scientific Advisory Board should help member nations prioritize the most important challenges ahead. Science thus assumes a major role in solving global and interlinked problems related inter alia to poverty, food security and public health, water management, and biological diversity."Vladimir Y. Fortov, Russian Academy of Sciences

"This book is much needed today to help us understand the complexity of the challenges facing all Earth’s inhabitants. It advances solutions to learning how to live in harmony with Nature and with each other. Erdelen and Richardson bring years of experience to a survey which should be required reading for everyone working on the quest for sustainability." — Julia Marton-Lefèvre, former Director-General, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

"Two international investigators, a social scientist and a life scientist with extensive leadership experience in UNESCO, take a well-researched new look at the human stance in a world of growing complexity and risk of existence. The authors unravel human pursuit in exploiting nature as one root of growing disharmony in "human/environment relationship," up to present-day global climate change, massive migration and loss of biodiversity. Core chapters highlight education, science and philosophy (especially ethics) as key "tools" to combat, should "humankind … sustain its further development." This compact, highly-readable and challenging book will deserve a wide and receptive audience."Kurt Pawlik, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Hamburg, Germany; former President, International Social Science Council

"We have entered the sustainable development decade where to achieve the desired goal, we should examine every programme from the point of view of social and economic and environmental sustainability. I am glad that this book brings out very clearly the complexity of the world problems and the strategies to face them. I hope the book will be read widely."Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, Founder Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Foundation

"An excellent book about complex systems, written by two "old hands" of UNESCO" Wolfgang Werner in Erdkunde 73 (2) 2019, 156

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: setting the scene 2. The Anthropocene and Planetary Boundaries: conditioners of sustainable development 3. Foresight and innovation: searching for the right future 4. Education: towards universal understanding 5. Science: the complexity of searching the truth 6. Industry, engineering, further complexity: steam engines and more 7. Philosophia moralis: systems stretched to the breaking point 8. Water: simple matter of special complexity 9. Biological diversity: bountiful Mother Nature 10. Global climate change: humanity's supreme challenge 11. Diplomacy and foreign trade: weaving the web of international intercourse 12. The military: risk management-plus, not perversity 13. Migration: when exit becomes exodus 14. Sustainable development: Homos sapiens' Holy Grail 15. Risks, new departures, global solutions: challenges of a complex frontier

About the Authors

Walter R. Erdelen is an ecologist and biogeographer with extensive international experience. Development of vision, concepts and strategies, targeted capacity building and networking have been essentials of his policy-related scientific work. He was previously Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Jacques G. Richardson is an author and journalist concentrating on the sciences and engineering, and has also worked extensively in strategic analysis and planning. He spent 13 years at UNESCO as head of its Science and Society Section.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Sustainability

Sustainability has become one of the most pressing social, environmental, economic, cultural and political issues of our times. Yet the meaning of ‘sustainability’ remains elusive.

This series provides original insights from across the social sciences and humanities on the meaning and practice of sustainability. It offers both theoretical and practical analysis of ‘sustainability’, including social sustainability, sustainable consumption, democratic sustainability and sustainable behaviour.

These interdisciplinary books give students, researchers, policy makers and practitioners the latest thinking from international authors. This thought-provoking series draws on and is relevant to those working in a wide-range of disciplines, including environment, development, sociology, politics, philosophy, business and marketing, media, geography, and anthropology.

To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected]).

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Strategic Planning
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
NATURE / Ecology