This introductory chapter discusses how environmental scientists, managers, and other professionals need to intensify their search for cross-cultural models of resource systems that include the forces driving human desires. Socio-cultural variables as both cause and consequence of system change will need to be joined to the traditional biophysical concerns of the ecologist, forester, conservationist, range manager, park superintendent, and rural agriculturalist. Worldwide, disparate indicators of ecosystem stress abound. Some of these challenges include geochemical flux due to pollution, the accumulating inventory of toxic chemicals, a collapsing world fishery, biotic mixing, accelerating loss of coral reefs, desertification, and more. The chapter then introduces the Human Ecosystem Model (HEM) as a possible solution to these problems.
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