The International Geosphere-Biosphere Program activity, Analysis, Integration and Modeling of the Earth System (AIMES) has championed and developed the notion of Earth System Science (ESS) in the Global Environmental Change (GEC) community. ESS studies how the planet operates as a coupled system of interacting components, which produce emergent behaviors over and beyond the dynamics of the individual components. This perspective has been slowly moving into the mainstream of global environmental change research over the last decade, in part because of the success of IGBP-AIMES, and its forerunner (IGBP-GAIM) and partner projects (e.g. WCRP-WGCM). ICSU’s sponsorship of global sustainability science is transitioning to a new framework, called “Future Earth” whose agenda is to provide the information required for sustainable management of the Earth system. This requires perceiving humans as fully interacting components of the Global Earth System, rather than just as external drivers of environmental change.