The Crucial Generation

Clifford Harris

In October 2000, Earth's human population reached and quickly passed six billion people. Since then, we have increased by 10 percent, to more than 6.6 billion. In other words, we added twice the total population of the United States in only seven years. Our numbers may stabilize at about 10 billion around the year 2050--or they may not. Experts suggest our planet may not be able to support that many people. Some claim this will lead to global ecosystem collapse, and the near or perhaps complete annihilation of the human race and many other species. Others dismiss such predictions as groundless doomsday hysteria. In this course students will ask and be asked difficult questions. Will our numbers continue to increase? What responsibility do we have as individuals for the future state of the planet? Can science, technology, and the marketplace solve the problem? Or are there other necessary factors and influences? Perhaps most importantly, can we build (or have we already built) a society that will remain in a sustainable equilibrium with the earth's ecosystems for the very long term? To begin our search for answers, we'll turn to some of the most exciting thinkers of our time, read their thoughts, critique them in open discussion and respond with our own perspectives in writing. These fascinating explanations of our past and present and predictions for our future challenge our common assumptions and force us to carefully rethink our place in the world. Finally, each student will study an aspect of sustainable culture and share his/her findings with the class in as creative a manner as possible.