P-A-N-A-R-C-H-Y Spells "Trouble"

Washington, D.C.- Panarchy-a theory explaining the evolution of complex systems, from forests to economic markets-may provide insight into the future adaptation and resilience of civilization to ecological stresses and rising energy costs, according to Thomas Homer-Dixon in "Our Panarchic Future," featured in the latest issue of World Watch magazine. Based on the work of ecologist Buzz Holling, panarchy theory views the world's stresses as part of a long-term global process of change and adaptation. When applied to modern human society, panarchy suggests that a new world order is quickly approaching.

Homer-Dixon explains that as society becomes increasingly connected, complex, and efficient, it also becomes less resilient. This lack of resilience has brought the world to a stage of vulnerability that could trigger a major ‘pulse' of social transformation. Humankind has experienced only a handful of such pulses throughout its existence, including the transition from hunter-gatherer communities to agricultural settlement, the industrial revolution, and the recent global communications revolution.

"The growth phase we're in may seem like a natural and permanent state of affairs-and our world's rising complexity, connectedness, efficiency, and regulation may seem relentless and unstoppable-but ultimately it isn't sustainable," writes Homer-Dixon. "Eventually we will have to change many things in our societies and daily lives-not just the machines we use to produce and consume energy, but also the work we do, our entertainment and leisure activities, how much we travel in cars and airplanes, our financial systems, the design of our cities, and the ways we produce our food." Click here to read the full article.

Also in the March/April 2009 Issue:

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Comparing the CO2 Impacts, by Neil Kolwey  A look at how much CO2 vehicles emit reveals some surprises.

Water Wars, by Erica Gies  Whether water is a right or a commodity, it's increasingly a cause for conflict.

Out of Sight, Out of Mine: Ocean Dumping of Mine Wastes, by Robert Moran, Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, and Roy Young  A new source of toxins for our already-stressed oceans.

Essay: The Living Earth Ethical Principles: A Family for All Families, by Erik Assadourian

Plus: Life-Cycle Studies: Concrete, Eye on Earth, Talking Pictures, and Matters of Scale: Counting Upon Happiness.

Click here for more on the March/April issue of World Watch.