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Earth stewardship: a strategy for social–ecological transformation to reverse planetary degradation

Abstract

A century ago, stewards were responsible for managing estates or for keeping order at public events. Today, the Earth is one global estate, and improved stewardship is vital for maintaining social order and for preserving life on Earth. In this paper, we describe Earth Stewardship, a social–ecological framework for sustaining life in a rapidly changing world. The paper defines the components of Earth Stewardship, characterizes the scientific needs for its agenda, and discusses initial efforts to engage multiple disciplines and segments of society in its application. As a beginning, new knowledge for global stewardship must be generated by teams of physical, biological, and social scientists. However, other stakeholders are needed for generating and applying such knowledge, including people in communities of faith, professions involved in design, planning and restoration, and policymakers and managers. Communicating environmental problems and solutions must take into account the psychology of how people perceive problems, promoting positive stances toward the actions needed for an adaptive approach to Earth Stewardship. Successful long-term stewardship of the Earth will require a global partnership linking researchers, managers, policymakers, and citizens.

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Notes

  1. US National Environmental Policy Act of 1969: The purpose of the act is “to declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation…”

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Acknowledgments

We thank representatives of the multiple academic disciplines and citizen groups that have contributed to the development of the Earth Stewardship initiative. We also appreciate the vision and courage of Steve Schneider who spoke so forcefully about the need for such an initiative and the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences for providing a venue to explore these ideas.

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Correspondence to F. Stuart Chapin III.

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Chapin, F.S., Pickett, S.T.A., Power, M.E. et al. Earth stewardship: a strategy for social–ecological transformation to reverse planetary degradation. J Environ Stud Sci 1, 44–53 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-011-0010-7

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Keywords

  • Communities of faith
  • Earth stewardship
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Positive psychology
  • Science literacy
  • Social norms
  • Sustainability