Highlights from AGU 2012

At the AGU 2012 Fall Meeting, Dylan McNamara (UNC Wilmington), Andrew Ashton (WHOI) and I sponsored a session titled “The Future of Human–Landscape Systems,” which featured two invited speakers: Peter Haff (Duke) and Brad Werner (UCSD). Because of various changes to the session structure, both speakers were free to present for an easy half-hour each.

Peter’s talk, “Driving the Landscape,” explored four possible scenarios of Technosphere Earth – broadly posed, the idea that Technology (with a capital T) is an emergent phenomenon with its own intrinsic dynamics:

“Sufficiently complex dynamics generates not only the trajectory of a variable of interest (e.g., vegetation cover) but also the environment in which that variable evolves (e.g., background climate). There is no way to anticipate what variables will define that environment—the dynamics creates its own variables. We are always open to surprise by a change of conditions we thought or assumed were fixed or by the appearance of new phenomena of whose possible existence we had been unaware or thought unlikely. This is especially true under the influence of technology, where novelty is the rule.” (You can read the complete conference abstract, from AGU’s scientific program, here.)

And Brad’s talk? Well, let’s just say it generated a publicity engine all its own, for reasons you can read about on AAAS Science Now and Slate. (The official abstract is here.)

Best AGU yet.

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