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Planetary Boundaries Framework

February 19, 2015

Scientists define environmental limits within which humanity can continue to thrive on earth.




(© Susanne Clara Bard)

How to thrive on planet earth. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Human civilization has flourished over the past 10,000 years, during an unusually stable period in earth’s history known as the Holocene. As societies developed, they had local impacts on the environment, but since the Industrial Revolution, our impact has become global.

WILL STEFFEN (Australian National University):

Human activities have now become so large that they are starting to push the earth system out of the Holocene state. You don’t want to push the planet so far that you destabilize your own life support system.


That’s Australian National University climate scientist Will Steffen. Along with an international team of scientists, he drafted the planetary boundaries framework: a document that defines environmental limits within which humans can continue to thrive on earth. Climate change and threats to biosphere integrity put Holocene-like stability in the most jeopardy, but other boundaries include ocean acidification, water use, and pollution. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.