Crispin Tickell

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The Seventh Annual John E. James Distinguished Lecture

Walter F. George School of Law Mercer University Macon, Georgia September 18, 2007

Given the title of my lecture this evening, you may wonder how our environment could be on the edge. On the edge of what? I suppose the answer I shall give is: the edge of radical change. In doing so, I shall dwell on the vulnerability of the Earth and the still greater vulnerability of our species and the society we have created for ourselves.

Current alarms over the prospects for climate change have made more people aware of the limited, ephemeral, and precarious character of the present environment. Our whole being is within a wafer-thin atmosphere surrounding the surface of a planet as it turns in space at exactly the right distance from the Sun for life as we know it. Sun, planet, and life itself are middle-aged with a beginning, a middle, and an end. As humans, we are tiny parts of a life-system whose complexity passes, and always will pass, our understanding.