As every scientist knows, the behavior of nonlinear systems is hard to predict, and their ultimate fate can be catastrophic. State of the World 1987 is the fourth in an annual series of reports on the impact of the human species on the habitability of the planet, the prospects for the future, and the steps that need to be taken if we are to achieve a long-term equilibrium with the rest of the biosphere and with the finite resources of the earth itself. This is surely a nonlinear problem of the highest order but one for which some kind of solution needs to be found within the next generation or two if our species is to survive.
In 11 chapters, written by seven of the authors in varying combinations, the report presents a sobering and almost frightening picture of what is happening to society and what is likely to happen within the lifetime of many of us. The tone is calm and never hysterical, but the message comes through clearly. The two fundamental problems are that there are too many of us and that we have been too clever at devising new technology and not clever enough at assessing and alleviating its impact.