AAAS atlas shows human impact on environment

provided by American Association for the Advancement of Science

he AAAS has announced the pub- lication of an atlas that graphically illustrates the link between population and the environment. It shows, says Paul Harrison, who wrote The AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment, that humanity is “overreaching itself threatening the key resources on which we depend.”

    The atlas demonstrates “the cross connections between human and natural environmental factors in determining a particular outcome,” says Peter H. Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and President-elect of AAAS, in the book's forward.

    The new atlas opens with an overview of the history of humanity's impact on the environment, the current status of the world's major ecosystems, consumption trends, and policy responses to the impact of the human presence on the environment.

    The second part of the book comprises primarily graphics and maps that quantify the impact of humanity on natural resources, land use, the atmosphere, waste and chemicals, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Graphics illustrate, for example, the Earth's fresh water resources, as well as the world's top per-capita water consumers and how each nation allocates its water use. The last section of the atlas, produced by the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, consists of six case studies that examine the relationship between population and environment in areas of North and South America, Asia and Africa.

    “We have found that people have a difficult time understanding how population dynamics affect the environment,” says Richard W. Getzinger, director of the AAAS International Directorate, which produced the atlas. “So we began thinking about how we could use the latest technological tools in a way that can promote human welfare while providing a better understanding of the human impact on the environment.”

    The atlas, which is being published by the University of California Press, was produced with funding from the Summit Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Turner Foundation.

    Founded in 1848, AAAS is the world's largest federation of scientists with more than 138,000 individual members and 273 affiliated societies. The Association publishes the weekly, peer-reviewed journal Science and administers EurekAlert!, the online news service featuring the latest discoveries in science and technology