Technology & Human Environment

Swans, MC Escher (1898 – 1972)

The passage of time has connected the invention of the wheel with more than ten million miles of paved roads around the world today, and the capture of fire with six billion tons of carbon going up in smoke each year. Environmental sins and suffering are not new.  Humans have always exploited the territories within reach.  Most observers emphatically designate the present as a period of intense environmental degradation.  Must human ingenuity always slash and burn the environment?  Our question is whether the technology that has extended our reach can now also liberate the environment from human impact–and perhaps even transform the environment for the better.  Well-established trajectories, raising the efficiency with which people use energy, land, water, and materials, can cut pollution and leave much more soil unturned.

The PHE combines our own analyses with those of others to characterize the trajectories of technological developments as they shape the evolution of the human environment. During the last few years, we have extended the scope of our analyses from macrobial life (plants and animals) to microbial life, and the question of whether macrobial and microbial life might somehow differ in their trajectories.

About the icon – Swans, MC Escher (1898 – 1972)

Publications about Technology & Human Environment

Peter L. Tyack, Jennifer Miksis-Olds, Jesse Ausubel, and Edward R. Urban Jr.. Measuring Ambient Ocean Sound During the COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF). Eos : 2021 acoustics, Quiet Ocean Experiment

JH Ausubel and DS Thaler. Plant and Animal Diversity Is Declining, But What About Microbial Diversity? [external link]. RealClear Science 11 May 2021 biodiversity

Jesse H. Ausubel and Alan Curry. How eDNA Could be a Cornerstone of the New Blue Economy (PDF). Maritime Executive 2021

IK Wernick. The Big Data Mindset [external link]. Issues in Science and Technology 2020

E Urban, JH Ausubel, C de Jong, J Miksis-Olds, H Sagen, S Seeyave, S Simpson, P Tyack. Introducing the International Quiet Ocean Experiment [external link]. ECO - Environment, Coastal, Offshore 6-9 2019 Ocean Sound Special Issue

JH Ausubel. The Potato and the Prius (PDF). 2018 Keynote address to the 2018 Potato Business Summit of the United Potato Growers of America, Orlando, FL, 10 January 2018.

JH Ausubel. Nature Rebounds (PDF). The Breakthrough Journal 5: 2015 This article was originally delivered as a Long Now Foundation Seminar, San Francisco, 13 January 2015 and appeared under the title "The Return of Nature: How Technology Liberates the Environment" in the Journal of the Breakthrough Institute Spring 2015.

JH Ausubel. We must make nature worthless [external link]. RealClearScience Sept. 18: 2015

CC Liu, YH Yu, IK Wernick, CY Chang. Using the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct to Evaluate Green Supply Chain Management: An Empirical Study of Taiwan’s Computer Industry [external link]. Sustainability : 2787-2803 2015 environmental performance; code of conduct; self-assessment questionnaire; green supply chain management; EICC Code

JH Ausubel. La liberazione dell’ambiente (autobiography-Italian version) [external link]. Di Renzo Editore 112 2014

JH Ausubel. Broadening the scope of global change to include illumination and noise [external link]. Seed Magazine 2009

JH Ausubel, PE Waggoner. Dematerialization: variety, caution, and persistence [external link]. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105 (35): 12774–12779 2008 10.1073/pnas.0806099105 D Dematerialization, Consumption, carbon, cropland, energy, fertilizer, impact

NM Victor, JH Ausubel. Earth at night – if the rest of the world lived like America (PDF). Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development 1 (1): 2007 energy, electric power

JH Ausubel. The future environment for the energy business (PDF). APPEA Journal : 487–495 2007 energy, energy business, decarbonization, ZEPPs, green strategy, carbon dioxide hydrogen, co2

LT Lu, IK Wernick, TY Hsiao, YH Yu, YM Yang, HW Ma. Balancing the life cycle impacts of notebook computers: Taiwan’s experience (PDF). Resources, Conservation and Recycling 48: 13-25 2006

JH Ausubel. Will the Rest of the World Live Like America? (PDF). Technology in Society 26 (2004): 343–360 2004 Zipf, golden ratio, inequality, sustainable development

JH Ausubel, C Marchetti. Science, Conquering Child of the Church (PDF). 2003 Draft prepared for Next 1000 Years meeting, 9-10 October 2003

C Marchetti, JH Ausubel. The Next 1000 Years (PDF). 2003 Discussion paper for April 2003 Rockefeller U workshop

TY Hsiao, YT Huang, YH Yu, IK Wernick. Modeling materials flow of waste concrete from construction and demolition wastes in Taiwan (PDF). Resources Policy 28 (2002): 39-47 2003 Material flows; Construction and demolition waste; Waste concrete; Recycling; Dynamic modeling

PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. A Framework for Sustainability Science: A Renovated IPAT Identity (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A 99 (12): 7860–7865 2002 environmental Impact identity, population, affluence, impact identity

JH Ausubel. W. Steffen, J. Jaeger, D. J. Carson, and C. Bradshaw (eds.), Springer, Heidelberg. Maglevs and the Vision of St. Hubert (PDF). In Challenges of a Changing Earth 175–182 2002 Also in Proceedings of the Global Change Open Science Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 10-13 July 2001. maglev, St. Hubert, great restorations, farmlands, sea, forests, transportation

JH Ausubel. Resources are Elastic Earth Matters 46–47 2000 a magazine published by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Winter 1999/2000. This issue contains many of the speeches that were presented at the "State of The Planet" conference held at Columbia in the Fall of 1999. natural resources

JH Ausubel. The Great Reversal: Nature’s Chance to Restore Land and Sea Technology in Society : 289–302 2000 Forests, land use, agriculture, fisheries, oceans

JH Ausubel. Because the Brain Does Not Change, Technology Must Production Efficiencies: The Engineers' Report, American Association of Engineering Societies, Washington, D.C. 14–18 1999 Republished in: IEEE Aerospace and Electronic SYSTEMS 14(10):3-6, October 1999. The paper is based on a talk Jesse gave at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development meetings in New York in April 1999. Human behavior, decarbonization, agricultural land use

JH Ausubel. Dis the Threat Industry Technological Forecasting and Society Change 62 (2): 119–120 1999 threat

JH Ausubel. Five Worthy Ways to Spend Large Amounts of Money for Research on Environment and Resources The Bridge 29 (3): 4–16 1999 Research, funding, zepp, wood products, natural gas

JH Ausubel. Industrial Ecology: A Coming of Age Story Resources : 14 1998 Published by Resources for the Future, Washington, DC Industrial Ecology, Consumption

JH Ausubel. Reasons to Worry About the Human Environment Journal of the Cosmos Club of Washington D.C 8 (1): 12 1998 Republished in Technology in Society 21:217-231, 1999.  climate and biodiversity, behavioral poisons, libido, depopulation, falling work, rejection of science, twilight of the west

JH Ausubel. Resources and Environment in the 21st Century: Seeing Past the Phantoms World Energy Council Journal July: 8–16 1998 natural resources, land use, population, gdp, energy

JH Ausubel. The Environment for Future Business Pollution Prevention Review 8 (1): 39–52 1998 This article has been republished in the journal Environmental Regulation and Permitting 9(2):251-62, 1999. business, efficiency, energy, decarbonization, agricultural yields, water use, material flows

JH Ausubel, C Marchetti. J.H. Ausubel and H.D. Langford, eds., National Academy, Washington DC. Elektron: Electrical Systems in Retrospect and Prospect Technological Trajectories and the Human Environment 110–134 1997 Also appeared in Daedalus 125(3):139-169, Summer 1996. energy, electric power

JH Ausubel. Environmental trends (PDF). Issues in Science and Technology 13 (2): 78–81 1997 energy, agriculture, water, materials, population

IK Wernick, JH Ausubel. Industrial Ecology: Some Directions for Research With the Vishnu Group, The Rockefeller University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1997 Industrial ecology, dematerialization, material substitution, economics, zero emission, materials, life cycle, recycling

JH Ausubel. National Academy, Washington DC. The Liberation of the Environment (PDF). In Technological Trajectories and the Human Environment, JH Ausubel and HD Langford (eds) 1-13 1997 An earlier version was published by The Collegium Budapest, Budapest, Hungary, A krnyezet felszabadtasa (The Liberation of the Environment, in Hungarian) Magyar Tudomany CII(2):164-171, 1995. Also appeared in Portuguese, A Liberacao do Meio Ambiente, Tecbahia 12(2):29-41, 1997 energy, agriculture, water, materials, population, technology innovation, diffusion, land use, carbon, dematerialization, natural resources

JH Ausubel and HD Langford (eds). JH Ausubel and HD Langford (eds). Technological Trajectories and the Human Environment [external link]. National Academy Press, Washington DC 1997 Also appeared as special issue, "The Liberation of the Environment,"Daedalus 125(3):1-17, 1996. energy, agriculture, water, materials, population, technology innovation, diffusion, land use, carbon, dematerialization, natural resources

JH Ausubel. The Virtual Ecology of Industry Journal of Industrial Ecology 1 (1): 10–11 1997 Industrial ecology

JH Ausubel. Can Technology Spare the Earth? Am Sci 84 (2): 166–178 1996 Republished in Current Perspectives in Geology, Fourth Edition, Michael McKinney, Robert L. Tolliver, Parri Shariff, eds., Wadsworth, Boston, MA, 1998. Industrial ecology, dematerialization, material substitution, economics, zero emission, materials, life cycle, decarbonization

JH Ausubel, DG Victor, IK Wernick. The Environment Since 1970 Consequences: The Nature and Implications of Environmental Change 1 (3): 2–15 1995 energy, agriculture, water, materials, population, technology innovation, diffusion, land use, carbon, dematerialization, natural resources, environmental

JH Ausubel, Arnulf Grübler. Working Less and Living Longer: Long-Term Trends in Working Time and Time Budgets Technological Forecasting and Social Change : 113–131 1995 Labor, longevity, population

JH Ausubel. Directions for environmental technologies (PDF). Technology in Society 16 (2): 139–154 1994 Also in Impresa Ambiente 4:8-16, 1994 (in Italian). environmental technologies, decarbonization, carbon dioxide, co2

JH Ausubel. 2020 vision (PDF). The Sciences 33 (6): 14–19 1993 also Published in Science and Technology for Eight Billion People, Europe's Responsibility, P.H Mettler, ed., New Europe Publications, London, pp. 307-319, 1995.  population, land use, forestry, agriculture

JH Ausubel. Chernobyl After Perestroika: Reflections on a Recent Visit Technology in Society : 187–198 1992 nuclear power, soviet union

JH Ausubel. Industrial ecology: Reflections on a colloquium [external link]. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 89 (3): 879–884 1992 Industrial ecology

JH Ausubel, DG Victor. Verification of International Environmental Agreements Annual Review of Energy and the Environment : 1–43 1992 environmental law, monitoring, compliance, regime

JH Ausubel. Social and institutional barriers to reducing CO2 emissions (PDF). Pp. 513-533 in Limiting the Greenhouse Effect, G Pearman (ed), Wiley, Chichester 1992

JH Ausubel. Political fallout: What fate awaits Chernobyl in the new world order? (PDF). The Sciences : 16–21 1991 nuclear power, soviet union

JH Ausubel and HE Sladovich (eds). Technology and environment [external link]. National Academy, Washington DC 1989 energy, agriculture, water, materials, population, technology innovation, diffusion, land use, decarbonization, dematerialization, natural resources

JH Ausubel. Technology and environment: An overview (PDF). Pp. 1-21 in JH Ausubel and HE Sladovich (eds.), Technology and Environment, National Academy, Washington DC 1989 energy, agriculture, water, materials, population, technology innovation, diffusion, land use, decarbonization, dematerialization, natural resources

JH Ausubel, MA Stoto. A note on the population 50 years hence [external link]. IIASA Working Paper 81-120. Published also as How many will survive the next fifty years? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 2(1)118–119, 1982. doi: 10.2307/3323656. population, logistic curve

Supplements to the ImPACT Identity

From time to time updates and additional supplements to the ImPACT
paper will be provided by the authors in response to questions and new

Supplement 1: Do consumers’ behavior and producers’
efficiency move in consistent patterns? View the
PowerPoint presentation

Supplement 2: Air Travel — the example of Materialization. View the PowerPoint presentation.

Supplement 3: New ways to visualize the ImPACT identity and its
forces. View the PowerPoint presentation.

Supplement 4: The Sustainability Plane — sustainability as a journey on
a plane to richer & cleaner coordinates in a short text and six slides.
View the PowerPoint presentation or
Word document.

Supplement 5: With a victory over trash,
New York City traced an environmental Kuznets Curve on the sustainability
plane during the 20th Century.
View the article (PDF).

Supplement 6: DynaCad, a simulator of cadmium flow from zinc processing
and cadmium recovery through the manufacturing, use, and exhaustion of products.
Download the model (Excel spreadsheet).