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Tipping towards the unknownResearchers propose critical planetary boundaries, But there is hope.

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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-24-09 09:17 AM
Original message
Edited on Thu Sep-24-09 09:55 AM by OKIsItJustMe
http://www.stockholmresilience.org/planetary-boundaries

Tipping towards the unknown

Researchers propose critical planetary boundaries, transgressing them could be catastrophic. But there is hope.

New approaches are needed to help humanity deal with climate change and other global environmental threats that lie ahead in the 21st century. A group of 28 internationally renowned scientists propose that global biophysical boundaries, identified on the basis of the scientific understanding of the Earth System, can define a safe planetary operating space that will allow humanity to continue to develop and thrive for generations to come.

This new approach to sustainable development is conveyed in the coming issue of Nature where the scientists have made a first attempt to identify and quantify a set of nine planetary boundaries.

- The human pressure on the Earth System has reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded. To continue to live and operate safely, humanity has to stay away from critical hard-wired thresholds in Earths environment, and respect the nature of planet's climatic, geophysical, atmospheric and ecological processes, says lead author Johan Rockstrm, Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

He warns that transgressing planetary boundaries may be devastating for humanity, but if we respect them we have a bright future for centuries ahead.


A great deal of scientific information can be found at the link.


http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7263/full/46...
Feature

Nature 461, 472-475 (24 September 2009) | doi:10.1038/461472a; Published online 23 September 2009

A safe operating space for humanity

Abstract

Identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change, argue Johan Rockstrm and colleagues.

Summary

  • New approach proposed for defining preconditions for human development
  • Crossing certain biophysical thresholds could have disastrous consequences for humanity
  • Three of nine interlinked planetary boundaries have already been overstepped
Although Earth has undergone many periods of significant environmental change, the planet's environment has been unusually stable for the past 10,000 years. This period of stability known to geologists as the Holocene has seen human civilizations arise, develop and thrive. Such stability may now be under threat. Since the Industrial Revolution, a new era has arisen, the Anthropocene, in which human actions have become the main driver of global environmental change. This could see human activities push the Earth system outside the stable environmental state of the Holocene, with consequences that are detrimental or even catastrophic for large parts of the world.

During the Holocene, environmental change occurred naturally and Earth's regulatory capacity maintained the conditions that enabled human development. Regular temperatures, freshwater availability and biogeochemical flows all stayed within a relatively narrow range. Now, largely because of a rapidly growing reliance on fossil fuels and industrialized forms of agriculture, human activities have reached a level that could damage the systems that keep Earth in the desirable Holocene state. The result could be irreversible and, in some cases, abrupt environmental change, leading to a state less conducive to human development. Without pressure from humans, the Holocene is expected to continue for at least several thousands of years.





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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-24-09 10:11 AM
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1. Excellent, excellent, excellent.
Now we just have to figure out how to live within the boundaries, even though our cultural story insists that human activity has none.

Is there any question that a global shift in consciousness is required?
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-24-09 12:16 PM
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2. There is a large body of work on 'sustainable development'
And instead of sneering at the term I'd highly recommend reading up on it if you are tired of some the more pessimistic mewlings that populate the EE forum. A good place to start researching the literature is at the websites of various UN agencies.
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