Monday, February 22, 2010

It Is Not Too Late If We Act Now


It is not very often that we get credible ecological news that is not full of bad news and projections. Well, I am glad to say that the following is a recent study that actually suggests that humans have not lost the race yet. Yes we are on our way towards catastrophic outcomes but we are not there yet and interestingly enough we can avoid the worst outcome if we are smart enough to change our ways and work meaningfully towards redemption.
The Stockholm Resilience Center, at Stockholm University is self described as a center of Research for Governance of Social-Ecological Systems. The Centre released a few months ago a major study undertaken by 28 world renown scientists in which they have established a new area in planetary management. Their first study describes nine planetary boundaries (listed at the bottom of this entry) that they believe humanity must not cross . The study goes on to say that human activity has thus far resulted in breaching three of these boundaries (the stared ones)but not the other six.
We are currently living in the geologic era known as the Holocene which started around 10,000 years ago. As we all know, it was during the Holocene that agriculture was developed, civilization prospered and industrialization became the norm. But unfortunately we are entering the Anthropocene, a new geological age in which human activities have grown as to form a major threat to the health of the earth.
Will we have the wisdom to adopt the right policies and change our behavior so as to avoid catastrophy? Yes we still can do that but time is quickly running out.
The nine Planetary Boundaries:
1 Strategic ozone layer
2 Biodiversity
3 Chemical Dispersion
4 Climate Change ***
5 Ocean Acidification ***
6 Freshwater consumption & the global hydrological cycle
7 Land System Change
8 Nitrogen & Phosphorus inputs to the biosphere & ocean ***
9 Atmospheric aerosol loading
*** Transgressed boundary.

13 comments:

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艾維 said...

As a man sows, so he shall reap. .........................................

BertoChavez said...

I'm wondering which of the 9 Planetary Boundaries is so crucial, that if it is trangressed, that we head for irreversible damage to the Earth.

ghassan karam said...

Berto,
My guess is that it is not a single one but a combination.
Keep in mind that number 9 was an after thought for the scientists and so if one is to add Water land and Biodiversity then 6 out of 8 would have been transgressed.
James Lovelock believes that we have passed the tipping point already.

Berto Chavez said...

Thank you Professor Karam. It does make sense that it would be a combination since many's affects are intertwined.

Rob Hamilton said...

I understand the category of the boundaries but when does one exactly cross over the "bio diversity" boundary? It seems arbitrary to at one point declare that biodiversity is being maintained and at another point that we have destroyed biodiversity on the planet to the point of no return.

Along with Land system change, I don't grasp the concept of this fully but I'd be curious again as to what the threshold would be to consider this crossed.

ghassan karam said...

Rob,
When the scientists say that a boundary has not been transgresses this does not mean that the area in question is healthy. It simply means that the damage in the field has not yet reached a level of severity as to declare it a "danger" zone.

Lily Wendle said...

While I would like to believe we can avoid catastrophic outcomes, I cannot think this because we have not and are not making enough changes quickly. I think a lot of this has to do with what we have mentioned in class about welfare being measured monetarily. As long as the general public values the economy over the environment, decisions will not be made in order to help the natural world. Instead, people will continue to value money as their own health and home is compromised due to their actions.

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