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What is IHOPE?

The Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE) is a global network of researchers and research projects using integrative frameworks to combine study human and Earth system history on behalf of our species’ future. IHOPE’s long-term, human-scale perspective unites Earth system science with the social sciences, the humanities, and communities of practice.  The IHOPE project office is hosted by Uppsala University in Sweden.


At the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme’s  (IGBP) 2003 conference in Banff, Robert Costanza and colleagues addressed the meeting’s challenge: how can the Earth System and human societies be viewed as a single system?  IHOPE thus began as an initiative of IGBP’s core project The Analysis, Integration and Modeling of the Earth System (AIMES), and is now a part of both IGBP and the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP).  Soon IGBP, IHDP and other global programs will be further amalgamated within the new Future Earth framework.  IHOPE is unique in its focus on how the human past can offer important knowledge to build an equitable and flexible future for our species.


IHOPE asserts that humans are a part of the Earth system and are now agents in planetary change. To offer viable paths for humanity’s future, our models, scenarios, and other visions must incorporate the full temporal and spatial range of human experience and creativity.


  1. IHOPE demonstrates the relevance of the past to the future of people, landscapes and regions.
  2. IHOPE investigates the complex interactions which result in the sustainability and vulnerability of societies.
  3. IHOPE integrates perspectives, theories, methods, and networks from the social and Earth system sciences, the humanities, and communities of practice.
  4. IHOPE recognizes that integrated knowledge requires equity, trust, and respect among communities of research and practice.
  5. IHOPE invites worldwide networks, collaborations, and exchanges.

A Three-Fold Approach to Research Design

Historical ecology integrates the history of the Earth´s biophysical system with the history of human life in all its aspects. This holistic perspective draws from the biophysical sciences, social sciences, and the humanities, and necessitates the use of diverse data such as documents, archaeology, environmental information, and local knowledge.  Landscapes and regions, studied at different scales across time and space, offer a human-scale focus for the study of change.

Environmental humanities draw humanities disciplines into conversation with each other and with the natural and social sciences.  Environmental humanists address the impact of humans and human cognition on physical reality and their consequences, paying particular attention to  how our perspectives on nature — attitudes, beliefs and values — are shaped by our myths, legends, ideology, aesthetics, politics, religion, and science.

Future Studies incorporate complex adaptive systems (CAS), an aggregate of several strands of investigation now widely applied in the biological, physical, and social sciences.  CAS concepts (such as nonlinearity, initial conditions, emergence, basins of attraction, and path dependence), applied to the dynamics of human societies, can offer new insights for scenario and modeling projects.  Looking beyond periods of relative stability to periods of transition can offer valuable lessons for the future.

Read more

Chase, Arlen F., and Vernon L. Scarborough (editors).2013. The Resilience and Vulnerability of Ancient Landscapes: Transforming Maya Archaeology through IHOPE. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, Wiley, Hoboken, NY.

Costanza, Robert, Sander van der Leeuw, Kathy Hibbard, Steve Aulenbach, Simon Brewer, Michael Burek, Sarah Cornell, Carole Crumley, John Dearing, Carl Folke, Lisa Graumlich, Michelle Hegmon, Scott Heckbert, Stephan T. Jackson, Ida Kubiszewski, Vernon Scarborough, Paul Sinclair, Sverker Sorlin, and Will Steffen. 2012. Developing an Integrated History and future of People on Earth (IHOPE).  Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 4:106-114.  DOI 10.1016/j.cosust.2012.01.010

Scarborough, Vernon L., Arlen F. Chase and Diane Z Chase. 2012.  Low-Density Urbanism, Sustainability, and IHOPE-Maya: Can the Past Provide More than History? UGEC Viewpoints 8:20-24.

Hibbard, K. A., R. Costanza, C. Crumley, S. van der Leeuw, S. Aulenbach, J. Dearing, J. Morais, W. Steffen and Y.  Yasuda. 2010. Developing an Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE): Research Plan. IGBP Report No. 59. Stockholm: IGBP Secretariat.

Costanza, R., L. Graumlich, and W. Steffen, eds. 2007. Sustainability or Collapse: An Integrated History and Future of People on Earth.  96th Dahlem Workshop.  Cambridge: MIT Press.