Our travels and discussions with local people have made this book better. As colleagues that we visited in other countries learned of our writing the book, they became excited, offering us various insights, informed discussions, and tours with local resource professionals. Beforehand, we would study the area and frame mentally the resources, environment, and people as a system. Subsequent observations and discussions on the visit would show discrepancies between our mental model and our hosts’, which led to fruitful discussions and learning. It soon because obvious that energy policies affected agriculture as much as agronomists; that the condition of forests was less impacted by forest managers than by agriculture policies; and that water policies were affected strongly by agriculture, energy, and urbanization. Consequently, it became apparent that one needs to understand all resources to make informed decisions.
This book synthesizes existing knowledge, amalgamates different fields, and comes up with intriguing observations. The world’s information is now so vast, complicated, and rapidly changing that many things in this book will no doubt be out of date by the time it reaches print – just as many things changed while writing it. Since the book began about ten years ago, the calculated time of a previous Ice Age (not the present one) was changed by over 100 million years; and the time when North and South America joined has been adjusted by a few million years. A colleague at Yale who showed very scientifically why Neanderthals could never breed with Homo sapiens sapiens has been proven wrong. Locations of different landforms are inconsistent among authorities. This is, and will be, the future of science: no person or generation has perfect knowledge. The future will be about learning details, synthesizing, comparing, measuring, and experimenting; forming thoughtful, flexible mental models; and continuing to learn from and adjust them.
We have tried to use the latest, most accurate data. Some things reported earlier have not been updated with new data. Some recent data have not been consistently posted. Sometimes, an analysis with new data would take too long and would not show meaningful differences. Consequently, sometimes trends that are several years old are shown. Copious online data sets were used. Some of the data is imperfect or incomplete; however, it is preferable to err by commission and use imperfect data rather than to err by omission, for two reasons:
Out of respect for people who need to make decisions, we prefer to state an educated observation, rather than shy away on the basis of imperfect knowledge or data. Sometimes the data shortcomings are pointed out.
Fatma’s experience with data sets as an engineer has shown that the best way to improve data is to use it.
Hopefully, the reader will appreciate the dynamic nature of knowledge and use this book as a basis to adjust from, rather than as a static authority.
We also hope that environmental and resource knowledge will become more integrative and holistic. This book is designed to encourage that trend.
All units are metric.