Breaking Boundaries

20/06/2021

Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet and put a limit on exponential growth and greed. 

In other words, to ensure that nothing and no one falls short on life’s essentials - from nature ecosystem services to food and housing to healthcare and political voice -, while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. 
Social and planetary boundaries understanding are extremely needed to framing that challenge. 
Only wide-spread understanding can act as a compass for human progress this century.
Thank you DAVID ATTENBOROUGH for this latest call to action “BREAKING BOUNDARIES” latest film on Netflix, where he focuses solely on the facts. 

At Aurora Sustainability Group, we always based all our educational resources, circular and sustainability strategy advisory on the rock-solid science of the Planetary Boundaries and the Natural Step Framework. The "Planetary Boundaries" is a concept which attempts to identify global-scale sustainability indicators and their tipping points. In a nutshell, Planet Earth has 9 safety limits and we’ve already exceeded 4 of them... probably more but we don't have enough data yet. 

Within the nine boundaries, humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Science shows that these aspects regulate the integrity, or health, of the biosphere, considering the interactions of the land, ocean, atmosphere and life that together provide the conditions upon which our society depends. Violating these boundaries could generate sudden and irreversible environmental changes. Respecting these boundaries reduces the risks to human society of crossing these thresholds. The "planetary boundaries" are also the foundations for the Doughnut Economics and the Wellbeing Economy.

Whoever has been part of our workshops, over the last 10 years, know well how much we press for a comprehensive and scientific shared understanding of the interconnected and complex global sustainability issues, before going into strategising a plan for becoming sustainable. Like a surgeon, when you are given the tools and the means to understand the problems, then you know how to operate… otherwise, you can just worsen the situation. You can find all this material open source here in the GGC journey on the Plaza.

Breaking Boundaries is unusual among David Attenborough considerable output... for featuring little of "Attenborough", and even of animals. Instead, its focus is squarely on the science of our planetary decline, setting out in unflinching detail the extent of Earth’s degradation – and the catastrophic consequences of anything but drastic action. Attenborough cedes the floor to Johan Rockström, the mild-mannered director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and former director oof Stockholm Resilience Centre. In 2009, Rockström identified nine natural processes upon which all life on Earth depends, and the limits within each that cannot be exceeded without endangering humanity.

The film is very well done, and I wish the main connection between the breaking of the planetary boundaries and tipping points was made more apparent: we are breaching the tipping points because of greed. 

I’m not condemning wealth here, I’m talking about moving our mindset into demands not for climate action, but for climate and environmental justice. A novel biosphere justice with an integrated far greater equity – within and between countries – in the use of natural resources, which ultimately puts limits on exploitation, and far greater efficiency in transforming those resources to meet human needs, which brings planetary boundaries together with social boundaries, creating a safe and just space between the two, in which humanity can thrive. 

Today, the richest 1 % of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 40% of global population, 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during the last 25-year critical period of unprecedented “carbon emissions” growth.

Extreme inequality is out of control. Hundreds of millions of people are living in extreme poverty while huge rewards go to those at the very top. There are more billionaires than ever before, and their fortunes have grown to record levels. Meanwhile, the world’s poorest got even poorer.

Many governments are fueling this inequality crisis. They are massively under-taxing big corporations and wealthy individuals, yet underfunding vital public services like healthcare and education.

These policies hit everyone, including the wealthy ones, because we all are paying the effect of the aftermath. Covid19 is just one example, like climate and the loss of our precious environmental support systems. The human costs are devastating, with women and girls suffering the most. Despite their huge contribution to our societies through unpaid care work, they are among those who benefit the least from today's economic system.

This has to change – and change is possible. First action for change is to understand and connect the dots: the "tipping points" breach presents perhaps the most profound challenge ever to have confronted human social, political, and economic systems. The stakes are massive, the risks and uncertainties severe, the economics controversial, the science besieged, the politics bitter and complicated, the psychology puzzling, the impacts devastating, the interactions with other environmental and non-environmental issues running in many directions. 

Please to demand world leaders to change the root causes of climate, environmental and social injustice. A fairer world is possible. The growing gap between rich and poor is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging our economies and tearing our societies apart.

Yet inequality is not inevitable – it is a political choice. Governments around the world must act now to build a new, human economy that values what truly matters to society, rather than fueling an endless pursuit of profit. An economy that values the care work of women and girls instead of some billionaires' wealth. An economy that works for everyone, not just a greedy and irresponsible few.

Dr Isabella Guerrini de Claire -Strategic lead & practice for Circular Economy, Climate Innovation, at startups, public & corps-



Sources:

-Breaking Boundaries Netflix

-OXFAM climate report Sept 2020

-Wellbeing Economy

-DOUGHNUT ECONOMICS

Photo: Daniel Mingook Kim

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