Nature on Rio+20

Johannes points out that Nature is running a special issue on the environment in honor of Rio +20. Of special interest is the following by Barnosky et al.:
Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere 
Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. The plausibility of a planetary-scale ‘tipping point’ highlights the need to improve biological forecasting by detecting early warning signs of critical transitions on global as well as local scales, and by detecting feedbacks that promote such transitions. It is also necessary to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.
There's a nice discussion article over at the NY Times' Green blog:
In interviews, scientists involved in writing the paper acknowledged that the 50 percent threshold was simply a best guess, based on extrapolating the earlier research. But they said they were deeply concerned about many of the trends on the planet and the seeming inability of the world’s political leadership to grapple with them. 
The situation “scares the hell out of me,” said one author of the paper, James H. Brown, who is a macroecologist at the University of New Mexico and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. “We’ve created this enormous bubble of population and economy. If you try to get the good data and do the arithmetic, it’s just unsustainable. It’s either got to be deflated gently, or it’s going to burst.”
These sorts of articles come out sufficiently frequently that I think we may need to call in some science historians to do a lit review of eschatology in ecology...

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