Big History: Humans and their Environment

We know something of our past, which we call history. We think we know the present. Some may see the future as a continuation of both. They are wrong. We are in a new situation (well labelled the Anthropocene) which requires us to confront an unprecedented range of issues: the multiplication of our species; how we measure health and wealth; the future source of our food and energy supply; conservation of the natural world and other forms of life; adaptation to climate change; and the shortcomings of the conventional wisdom, even science, in all its aspects. Most forecasts are wrong, but let us jump a hundred years. By then humans are likely to be living in a more globalized world of rapid communication. The geographical balance of political power will change. More than ever there will be a single human society in which humans increasingly resemble a superorganism. Even the evolution of our species may take a different turn with effects on the brain. Already many are less interested in words than in visual images, and have difficulty in integrating their thinking and actions. But life itself is so robust that the dominance of any species, even our own, could be no more than a short episode in the story of life on Earth.

Sir Crispin Tickell is a pioneer in linking environmental and in particular climatic change to the worlds of politics and business. A former British diplomat, Sir Crispen was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry responsible for overseas aid, and British Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, before going on to be Warden of Green (Templeton) College Oxford, Chancellor of the University of Kent, Adviser at Large to the President of Arizona State University, and member of the International Advisory Council of the Oxford Martin School. He has authored many papers and books, including Climate Change and World Affairs and Mary Anning of Lyme Regis.