The article argues that the century from 1945 is likely to prove seminal in terms of human progress. It marks the period when the human community has to come to terms with its capacity for self-destruction through the invention of weapons of mass destruction and its ability to exceed the homeostatic capabilities of the global ecosystem in an era of deep socio-economic divisions.
Two-thirds of the way through this century the progress has been mixed. Nuclear war has been avoided more by luck than by wisdom, there remain risks of nuclear proliferation and it is not evident that humankind has acquired the ability to deal with the destructive potential of bio-, nano- and other emerging technologies. Recognition of the extent of anthropogenic impacts on ecosystem stability is evident, but not at the level necessary for the radical responses required.
Even so, there are signs of progress and potential for change, suggesting that the final one-third of the century will be singularly important in ensuring long-term emancipation and environmental sustainability.