Climate change has often been called a “wicked problem” because of its complexity. The problem becomes even more wicked when considering global change – that is, the collision of humans and the rest of nature at the global level, leading not only to climate change but to much more. The human imprint is also unmistakable on the composition and structure of ecosystems, from marine ecosystems that are increasingly exploited to the land systems on which we depend for much food and fibre; on the great biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus (and, of course, the carbon cycle); and on the ecological complexity of the planet. We are now beginning to understand the nature of the challenge to change our relationship with the rest of nature.
This talk will focus on two aspects of that challenge: (i) the need to revamp institutions to focus on, for example, active adaptive management and the development of early warning systems for abrupt changes; and (ii) the need to re-evaluate the core values of the post-World War II contemporary society built predominantly on a growth paradigm.