The Earth’s natural resources are finite, and its population is constantly expanding. Ensuring that humans can continue to prosper sustainably within the physical limits of our planet is arguably the defining challenge of the 21st century.
Earth system science has helped us understand planetary limits, but the global human system itself is typically considered external to the bio-physical Earth system framework. Dr. Eric Galbraith, Canada Research Chair in Human-Earth System Dynamics, is working on a new model to integrate human dynamics into this framework. He and his research team are focusing on population-level time allocation, physical variables and biogeochemical fluxes (the quantities of materials that move from one Earth "reservoir" to another, such as when ocean water evaporates into the atmosphere). Ultimately, they hope to build a comprehensive, rigorous understanding of the coupled human-Earth system.