This article examines the idea that managing the Earth’s complex systems and their dynamics is the next great challenge for the engineering profession. The effects that human engineering has on the environment, whether intentional or not, must be taken into account on a global scale. Earth systems engineering is meant to do so by augmenting existing engineering disciplines by coupling the functionality of systems with the active management of the dynamics of fundamental natural and human systems. The article places the idea of earth system engineering into historical and global perspective. It also addresses key ethical considerations and basic principles of earth systems engineering.