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Seminar 6

“Crossroads for Planet Earth”

Convened April 7–8, 2006 | Foundation For the Future Building, Bellevue, Washington

Summary

Human population, extreme and widespread poverty, biodiversity, energy and environment, public health, world economies, global priorities – in so many arenas, humanity has reached a crossroads where decisions of monumental consequence will be made, either proactively or by default. In September 2005, Scientific American ran a series of articles by experts in these fields, followed in October by a one-day forum involving those experts as speakers. For two days in April 2006, the Foundation For the Future brought together Scientific American scholars with additional voices from the United States and abroad to carry the conversation forward.

“Crossroads for Planet Earth” was conducted as a workshop of the Humanity 3000 Program, which regularly reviews historical, cultural, scientific, and technological trends along with today’s emerging technologies to consider the question: Where does humanity go from here? “The mandate we’ve given ourselves is not how do we get to an idealized future,” said Bob Citron, Executive Director of the Foundation, “but rather, what do the best minds of our current generation see as probable pathways for humanity in the long-term future?”

The April workshop included two keynote addresses: "Facing Bifurcation: Crossroads in Context" by David Wasdell and "Crossroads for Planet Earth: Harnessing Science and Technology for Reconciling Human Security and Environmental Protection" by P.C. Kesavan. Seven papers were delivered, including: "The Climax of Humanity," by George Musser; "When Climate Flips, Will Civilization Bounce Back?" by William H. Calvin; "Biosphere Futures," by Natarajan Ishwaran; "The Big Potential of Small Farms," by Paul Polak; "How Should We Set Priorities?" by W. Wayt Gibbs; "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations," by David R. Montgomery; and "Nanotech Manufacturing: Driving Toward a Crossroads – and a Crisis," by Michael A. Treder. The keynotes and papers provided context for face-to-face dialogues in both small-group and plenary sessions.

Proceedings (16 MB PDF) of this seminar, including transcripts of all dialogic sessions, available for download.

Participants

William H. Calvin
Affiliate Professor Emeritus
University of Washington School of Medicine
Seattle, WA USA

W. Wayt Gibbs
Senior Writer
Scientific American
Pittsburgh, PA USA

Natarajan Ishwaran
Director, Ecological and Earth Sciences
UNESCO
Paris, France

P.C. Kesavan
Homi Bhabha Professor
M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
Chennai, Tamilnadu  India

David R. Montgomery
Professor
University of Washington
Seattle, WA USA

George Musser
Editor
Scientific American
New York, NY USA

Paul Polak
Founder and President
International Development Enterprises
Lakewood, CO USA

Michael A. Treder
Executive Director
Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN)
Brooklyn, NY USA

David Wasdell
Director
Meridan Programme
London, England UK