• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .

Innovative memory and resilient cities: echoes from Ancient Constantinople

The Urban Mind, cultural and environmental dynamics  (2011)
Barthel S, Sörlin S and Ljungkvist J

Sinclair P, Herschend F, Isendahl C and Nordquist G (eds)

Studies in Global Archaeology 15
Sweden, Uppsala University Press


This chapter uses insights from resilience thinking in analysing a two-thousand-year period of ancient and modern Constantinople, addressing one of the great challenges of the Urban Anthropocene: how to nurture an ecologically sound urbanisation.

One of the lessons is that Constantinople maintained a diversity of insurance strategies to a greater degree than many historical and contemporary urban centres. It invested heavily not only in military infrastructure but also in systems for supplying, storing, and producing food and water.

From major granaries and at least four harbours the citizens could receive seaborne goods, but during sieges the trade networks broke down. At those times, when supplies ran dry, there were possibilities to cultivate food within the defensive walls and to catch fish in the Golden Horn.

Repeated sieges, which occurred on average every fifty years, generated a diversity of social-ecological memories — the means by which the knowledge, experience, and practice of how to manage a local ecosystem were stored and transmitted in a community.

These memories existed in multiple groups of society, partly as a response to the collapse of long-distance, seaborne, grain transports from Egypt. Food production and transports were decentralized into a plethora of smaller subsistence communities (oikoi), which also sold the surplus to the markets of the city. In this way Constantinople became more self-reliant on regional ecosystems.

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