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David Hodas is the issue editor for the Winter 2012 issue of Natural Resources & Environment.
We live in an enormously complex country that is part of an even more complex world that operates through interconnected natural, economic, energy, and social systems. Because “the world is more messy, more crowded, more interconnected, more interdependent, and more rapidly changing than ever before, the more ways of seeing the better. The systems thinking lens allows us to reclaim our intuition about whole systems . . .” Donella H Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer 6 (2008).
To be sustainable, our laws must be congruent to the economic, environmental, and social systems that define our world. However, our laws have not kept pace with our growing economy, population, and technological innovation. Adjusted for inflation our economy has more than tripled since 1970. In 2010, U.S. GDP was about $14.5 trillion in an intertwined global economy of $74.5 trillion. As we enter 2012, world population continues its exponential expansion: from 1 billion in 1820, 2 billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, to about 7 billion in 2011. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook (Dec. 1, 2011).