A guide to global trends, challenges, and opportunities

The Global Context

maintained by Robert Gilman

This page is a topic-oriented index of the articles on this site and links to other sites.

It is also the starting point for an evolving index to state-of-the-art summary information on many topics important for sustainability, particularly at a global scale.

Topics are organized under four major heading that are increasingly popular in the emerging field of sustainable economics, namely Nature (or Natural Capital), Humankind (or Human Capital), Society & Culture (or Social Capital), and Hardware (or Built Capital).

The same classification system can be use to organize a similar assessments of conditions, challenges, and opportunities at smaller scales -- from the nation down to the household.

For the trend summaries we plan to look at:

  • present conditions and trends (where are we now)
  • alternative technologies, techniques, and approaches relevant to the topic (outer alternatives)
  • potential changes in values, attitudes and worldviews relevant to the topic (inner alternatives)
  • Plausible futures incorporating these alternatives plus changes in the trends due to physical and biological limits.

Filling in this information across the full scope of topics is a major project that will take many months, if not years. At this time we are just beginning, with the first full trend analysis, on the topic of "oil" in preparation.


Nature or Natural Capital refers to what we would often call "the environment" -- including land, the atmosphere, water, and all of life other than humanity.

  • Earth
    • Land & Soils
    • Non-renewable energy
      Oil | Gas | Coal | Nuclear Fission
    • Minerals
    • Earthquakes & earth changes
  • Air
    • Ozone layer
    • Global temperature
    • Rain quality
    • Air quality
    • Variability & storms
    • Solar energy potential
    • Wind energy potential
  • Fire (Life)
  • Water
    • Fresh water
    • Oceans


You can think of the items under this heading as demographics plus our personal non-material wealth.

Social & Culture

This heading includes all the interpersonal "software" that enables societies and organizations to function: roles, norms, traditions, regulations, policies, etc. -- in other words, the non-physical part of culture. It differs from Humankind in that it is the "software" (and characteristics) of groups rather than of individuals.


Finally, technologies, manufactured things, and their associated institutions:

All contents copyright (c)1996 by Context Institute

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Last Updated 11 March 1997

URL: http://www.context.org/GUIDES/global.htm

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