In December 2012, Brad Werner—a complex systems researcher with pink hair and a serious expression—made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. But it was Werner’s session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (Full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).
Standing at the front of the conference room, the University of California, San Diego professor took the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that rather direct question. He talked about a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: Global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response.