Human society currently faces global-scale issues including climate change, loss of biodiversity, population pressures, food production, energy acquisition, and resource use that threaten the earth's life-support systems. Resolution of these issues will require integration of knowledge from many sources and simultaneous consideration of multiple problems, in contrast to the individualistic approach to problems commonly used in the past. Ecologists are challenged to provide a scientific basis for addressing these issues and to lead in developing a sense of earth stewardship.
Recent ESA meeting themes have included ecological restoration, linking research and education, planning sustainability of a global society, and global warming. Earth stewardship continues this emphasis on application of ecological perspectives and knowledge to global concerns. We must find simultaneous solutions to a suite of interconnected problems that threaten the ability of the earth to provide the services and resources on which we depend. This will require integration of knowledge from the local to the global scale, from the sciences, humanities, and engineering, and from sources ranging from traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples to the most modern technological advances. In an age when the world's human population is increasingly isolated from the life-support systems of the earth, fostering a "sense of place" and global responsibility is critical to this effort. Ecologists have a special understanding of the complex, multi-scale interactions underlying the earth's life-support systems and must be leaders in society's movement to earth stewardship in the 21st century.