Change or collapse? A theoretical approach to global environmental change and landuse in rainforest and arid zone hotspots

Helmut J Geist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The current level of interest in past and possible future collapses of man-environment conditions or systems (civilizations) is high. However, both in the media and in geographical science (including earth system science), the presentation of this issue tends to be popularized and simplified. This paper contrasts the prevailing notions of collapse with the concept of land use transition as a framework that attempts to contextualize the contingent and path-dependent transformation of man-environment relations. The relational concept is explained and tested against both (pre)historic and contemporary evidence of land-use systems moving either towards restoration and innovation or towards deterioration and decline. Contemporary examples of transitions in land-use and land-cover change are drawn from hotspots within the global tropical forest and and zone ecosystems (deforestation, desertification). They are taken from recent data-bases created under the auspices of the international Land-Use/Cover Change (LUCC) project in 1995 to 2005. They are presented in terms of causal clusters associated with the severity, extent and rates of change in areas such as Central Asia and the Brazilian Amazon. In a plea for more critical realism in the analysis of threatening socio-ecological collapse, the type and quality of interventions to encourage more sustainable land-uses are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-159
Number of pages17
JournalGeographische Zeitschrift
Volume94
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • political ecology
  • deforestation
  • systems
  • sustainability
  • globalization
  • geography

Cite this

Change or collapse? A theoretical approach to global environmental change and landuse in rainforest and arid zone hotspots. / Geist, Helmut J .

In: Geographische Zeitschrift, Vol. 94, No. 3, 2006, p. 143-159.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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