May 03, 2003

Name Change

I change the name of my blog today from Planetary Management to Earth Systems Management. The change reflects a couple of things. First I did a Google search on "planetary management" and got a lot of stuff that was oriented to imaginary planets rather than to the very real one we currently (and for the foreseeable future) live on. I want to steer clear of fictional enterprises because I believe that we really are making management decisions (through action or inaction) at the scale of Earth and I do not want my ideas to be confused with fiction (despite that fact that I have on occaision been known to make things up).

The second reason that I changed the name is that I wanted to get a plural noun into the title. The expansion of the number of disciplines studying Earth's functioning clearly indicates that there is more than one system at work on our planet. The disciplinary focus has taught us much about those systems. It is now time to work on understanding the interaction of those systems.

In particular our management decisions are likely to reflect the mode of our inquiry. For example fisheries managment decisions in the mid-20th Century focused only on the lifecycle of individual species primarily because that is what fishery biologists were interested in. We now know that environmental factors such as El Nino variations and inter-species interactions such as trophic structures are also important in fish stock dynamics and our management strategies are beginning to reflect this.

Begin Aside
Imagine a surface of constant but very low nitrogen concentration. If that concentration is low enough, most of Earth's atmosphere would be inside of it. For all intents and purposes, that surface would define a closed system with respect to mass (that is all of Earth's stuff would be inside of that surface (this ignores some gasses going up and some rocks coming down). Energy would cross that boundary and in the long run the balance of the energy fluxes that cross that surface are is all that we have to go on.
End Aside

I mentioned that I wanted to get a plural noun into the title to call attention to the fact that there are multiple systems to be considered. But as I have also alluded to, at some large scale there is a single Earth System. How we parse that singular system is crucial to how we will understand it and how we will make decisions that affect the evolution of the singular and plural systems.