Earth Systems Engineering: The Role of Industrial Ecology in an Engineered World

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45 Scopus citations


A principal result of the Industrial Revolution and concomitant changes in human population levels, technology systems, and culture has been the evolution of a world in which the dynamics of major natural systems are increasingly dominated by human activity. Many resulting anthropogenic perturbations of fundamental natural systems - for example, the nitrogen and carbon cycles and heavy metal stocks and flows - have been both unanticipated and problematic. Reducing such unintended consequences of human activity will require development of the ability to rationally engineer and manage coupled human natural systems in a highly integrated fashion. Such "earth systems engineering" activity will rely on industrial ecology studies and methodologies to provide critical elements of the required science and technology (S&T) base. Although the need to develop such an earth systems engineering/industrial ecology capability is clear, it is also apparent that the current S&T base, institutional structures, and ethical systems are inadequate to support such activity. Accordingly, it is desirable to begin to develop such support structures while recognizing that premature attempts to engineer fundamental natural systems should be discouraged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-93
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon sequestration
  • Geoengineering
  • Global impacts
  • Stewardship
  • Technology and the environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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