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Authors

James R. Karr

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Unbridled population growth and technological expansion threaten the integrity of the biosphere and, thus, our welfare. The threat is not new. Human history documents numerous civilizations that developed and prospered by exploiting natural resources. Their populations grew until the resource base could no longer support them; eventually, those civilizations fell. The mysterious collapse of the Easter Island society, for example, has been traced to "environmental degradation brought on by deforestation. " Populations less geographically constrained than Easter Island's have often delayed the inevitable by expanding to other regions. Today, however, environmental degradation is global in scope and exploitable frontiers no longer exist. In a very real sense, twentieth-century Earth is like the Easter Island society of the mid-sixteenth century.

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