The Initiatives

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Planetary Boundaries

In 2009, Rockström et al published a groundbreaking paper in Nature. Entitled Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity, it explored the nine ‘planetary boundaries’ that humanity must not cross if the Earth is to continue to support life and our civilisation. Boundaries include freshwater over-abstraction, land-use change, nutrient run-off and terrestrial and atmospheric pollution: combined with climate change, these cause food and water scarcity, ocean acidification, aquatic eutrophication and anoxia, and biodiversity loss, leading inexorably to ecosystem collapse.

We are crossing (or have already overshot) several Planetary Boundaries. Scientists agree that
our failure to live safely within them is having cumulative adverse impacts, thereby producing a real and present danger to life on earth. The wellbeing and future survival of the world’s poorest people and the majority of Earth’s species are precarious.

Since it is impossible to get inter-governmental agreement to tackle the best-known environmental risk (climate change), how can we guide ourselves to a way of living safely within all Planetary Boundaries?

A team of experts including scientists, communicators and systems analysts assembled at the 2013 SLOW LIFE Symposium to synthesis the science, map the human systems involved in maintaining inertia, and identify the opportunities to unblock these systems and develop tools to engage all elements of society from politics to business to public in joining the journey to a resilient society.

At the 2014 Symposium, this team was expanded to include a partnership with the B Team to mainstream the planetary boundaries into business practices.

The planetary boundaries research was updated in early 2015 in the journal Science.

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