Thursday, September 24, 2009

Planetary Boundaries Project

Environmental sociology typically conceptualizes natural limits on humanity's use of the planet in terms of a single concept: the globe's 'carrying capacity' or, in it's more recent guise, 'ecological footprint.' Does this concept possess the relevant precision for understanding the complexity of our situation?

In contrast, a new report from the Stockholm Resilience Center defines nine separate 'planetary boundaries': climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution. Strikingly, until recently, no one had made a serious effort to quantify these limits in measurable ways. That's why the new report is so crucial. Significantly, the report suggests we have already exceeded three of the boundaries.

Nature's coverage of the project can be found here, while the original report and other material is available here.

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