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Is the Planet Full?$
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Ian Goldin

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199677771

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677771.001.0001

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The Metabolism of a Human-Dominated Planet

The Metabolism of a Human-Dominated Planet

Chapter:
(p.142) 8 The Metabolism of a Human-Dominated Planet
Source:
Is the Planet Full?
Author(s):

Yadvinder Malhi

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677771.003.0008

This chapter provides a systemic approach for explaining how much food and water are required to support particular forms of life. All biological organisms from bacteria upwards have a metabolism—the rate at which they process chemical energy for survival, growth, and reproduction. Humanity is unusual in having an extended ‘sociometabolism’ that processes energy far beyond direct biological requirements. This sociometabolism has grown through human history (with sharp transitions at the onset of agriculture and industrial activity) and is set to double in the foreseeable future. The challenge of our time is to create the innovations in technology and governance that can sustain both humanity and planet at a time when the sociometabolism of a single species is approaching and surpassing the natural metabolic activity of the biosphere.

Keywords:   metabolism, sociometabolism, environment, consumption, technology, governance, urban areas, history

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