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Problem Solving in the Anthropocene

Coping with the challenges of the Anthropocene era, in which humans shape many of the planet's most fundamental processes, requires a new approach to strategic decision-making. Rather than addressing one issue at a time, we must devise innovative, multi-dimensional strategies aimed at strengthening all systems' resilience.

STOCKHOLM – Take a deep breath. Savor it for a moment. Now consider this: None of our modern human ancestors ever breathed anything like it – and, the way things are going, nor will our descendants.

Since the Industrial Revolution began, human activity has substantially changed the atmosphere’s composition. Carbon-dioxide levels are higher today than they have been in at least 800,000 years. The amount of nitrogen and sulfur circulating through the Earth system has doubled. The ocean’s pH is changing at an unprecedented rate, reaching levels of acidity that marine organisms have not experienced in the last 20 million years.

Clearly, humans – who now occupy almost 40% of the planet’s ice-free land surface – are shaping many of the planet’s fundamental processes. According to Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, this shift is so profound that it amounts to the beginning of a new epoch: the Anthropocene.

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