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My name is Jonathan Tomkin, and I’m from the University of Illinois. What is sustainability? There are many different definitions, uh, and it can depend on the context or the area that you’re interested in. In this course we’re concerned with the prospects of a sustainable Earth, including its environments, its societies, and its economies. Can our civilization persist on its current path? That’s the key question we’ll be looking at in this course. Now, a sustainable system does not mean that it’s static. Uh, plenty of systems go through cycles. In this figure we can see, um, a natural grassland, and we don’t call it unsustainable just because every six months it seems to die away to nothing. Similarly, no system is infinitely sustainable. Uh, the Earth is about halfway ten-billion-year run with the sun, which is going to run out. So we’re going to focus on a problem that’s a little bit more tractable. Um, we’re going to consider whether or not modern societies are sustainable over the next century, and there’s a couple of reasons why we’re focusing on this, and the first one is is that it’s very hard to make predictions any length of time into the future, but it particularly becomes true when we worry about what the important issues of the 22nd century are going to be. Um, probably whatever problems they come u — they have are either a result of us failing to solve our current problems or ones that we don’t conceive. So, we’re going to be looking at “Can we continue to have modern economies, modern societies? Can we expect life over the course of this century to be similar at the end as to what it was at the start?” Note that in all cases, the study of sustainability concerns itself, uh, with the future of both people and the natural environment. Um, one description is neeting the me — needs of the people of today, and in the future, so we’re worried about the people who are alive today and we’re worried about our descendants. And this is one of the reasons why sustainability brings on a sort of a political character, because how do we weight the needs of people today versus the people of the future, um, who don’t exist yet? Um, and so we have all of these sort of stresses inherent in the, in the whole concept, because there are real needs for people today, and we have to very finely balance that judgment with other people. So instead of asking “What do we owe future generations?” I’m going to start with a more fundamental question, uh, and that is “Is it sustainable for civilization to continue, more or less, on its current course?” It turns out this is not a very easy question to answer, and so here’s a-a book, The Limits to Growth. This was published in 1972, and they predicted that we would run out of petroleum in 1992, so that’s more than 20 years ago. Um, so that’s a pretty spectacular failure, but if we’re trying to judge what’s going to happen in the future, we need to be making predictions like that, and so we need to be finding out what’s a good prediction and what’s a bad prediction, an-and how can we tell the difference? So I’d like you to think a little bit now about what you think the most important sustainability issues are in the context that I’ve given you. So take a moment and write down a short list of the things that you think that we’re really going to be concerned about over the course of this century. Here’s a collection of lists from earlier bodies.