For centuries, man-made infrastructure has been viewed as separate from natural systems. Yet in the past few centuries, as the scale and scope of human activities have dramatically increased, there is accumulating evidence that natural systems are becoming increasingly, and in some cases entirely, managed by humans. The dichotomy between infrastructure and the environment is narrowing, and natural systems are increasingly becoming human design spaces. This is already apparent with the management of hydrologic systems for urban water supply, wildlife, agriculture, forests, and even the atmosphere, and we can expect management of the environment to become more so as human activities grow. Yet our infrastructure largely remains obdurate. They are designed to last for long times even as changes in the environment and technology accelerate. As such, our current infrastructure paradigms fail at the level of the complex, integrated systems and behaviors that characterize the Anthropogenic Earth. Infrastructure in the future will need to be designed for adaptive capacity and the complexities associated with techno-environmental systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1006-1015
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • adaptation
  • anthropocene
  • complexity
  • environment
  • infrastructure
  • lock-in

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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