The Utility of an Integrated Understanding

Can modern technology feed a world of nine billion people or thereabouts in 2050? Yes it can, ifthe agricultural sector is provided with sufficient land, energy, water, advanced technology equipment, and a suitable regulatory structure.

Can sufficient energy be supplied to serve the needs of nine billion people or thereabouts in 2050? Yes it can, if the energy sector is provided with suffi cient land, water, advanced technology equipment, and a suitable regulatory structure.

Can sufficient water be supplied to serve the needs of nine billion people or thereabouts in 2050? Yes it can, if the water sector is provided with sufficient energy and advanced technology equipment.

Can the nonrenewable resource sector supply the materials needed by the advanced technology sector in meeting the needs of nine billion people or thereabouts in 2050? Yes it can, if the sector is provided with sufficient land access, energy, water, and a suitable regulatory structure.

Can these important, overlapping needs be addressed in a quantitative, systemic way so as to move the planet in the direction of long-term sustainability? This is the crucial question and focal subject of the chapters that follow.

It is of interest to note that the existence of at least a first attempt at an integrated quantification will provide information that is highly relevant to recent efforts to establish national materials accounts (e.g., NRC 2004; OECD 2004). These accounts, now in existence in a number of countries in a preliminary form, assume a new level of importance when their contents are placed in perspective with the progress needed to achieve or approach sustainability and to consider how they might monitor such progress. In at least a preliminary fashion, we have explored throughout this Forum the linkages among the individual, important components, and we posit in this volume how they might perhaps be optimized as an integrated system. It is one of the major challenges of our existence as a species, and for the sustainability of the planet as we know it. Surely nothing could be more worth exploring.

Land, Human, and Nature

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