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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: January 2010

1 - Infrastructure for observing local human–environment interactions

from Part I


The vision: sustainable communities on a sustainable planet

Imagine a world where nature and society coexist in a healthy symbiosis, where human impacts on the environment are minimal, and where communities are safe from natural and technological hazards. Imagine a time when scientists can monitor such sustainable human–environment interactions, when they can interactively share and compare data, analyses, and ideas about those interactions from their homes and offices, and when they can collaborate with local, regional, and international colleagues and stakeholders in a global network devoted to the environmental sustainability of their communities and of the planet.

We contend that to build the sustainable world portrayed above, it is necessary to develop an infrastructure that will support such an edifice. Consequently, this chapter introduces our ideas about the infrastructure needed to realize this vision and how the Human–Environment Regional Observatory project (HERO) attempted to take the initial steps to develop that infrastructure. The chapter also demonstrates that HERO addressed several major growth areas of twenty-first-century science – complex systems, interdisciplinary research, usable knowledge/usable science, and transdisciplinarity – as integral parts of its infrastructure development. The chapter ends by laying out the rationale behind and structure of this book.

Achieving the vision: infrastructure development and HERO

Infrastructure for monitoring global change in local places

To paraphrase the American politician Tip O'Neill, “all global change is local.” On the one hand, anthropogenic global environmental change is the accumulated result of billions of individual actions occurring at billions of specific locations.

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