All life on Earth depends on clean air and water, biodiversity, and healthy forests, land, oceans and a stable climate. These global commons—the ecosystems, biomes and processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system—are the very foundation of our global economy and modern society. Today, they are facing an all-too familiar tragedy of over-exploitation and rapid degradation.
Scientists warn that the “planetary boundaries”, that have ensured the stable conditions that have enabled all civilizations to form and prosper over the last 11,000 years are being strained, and in some cases, exceeded. Several of the planetary boundaries have already been breached.
These include; biodiversity, now being lost at a rate unprecedented in the last 65 million years; land use change, where nearly a third of forest cover has been cleared worldwide and almost a quarter of the total land area under human use is being degraded; and climate, where the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide now exceeds 400 parts per million, its highest level in 800,000 years. Meanwhile greenhouse gases are also acidifying the oceans, changing their chemistry faster than at any point in perhaps 300 million years.
We need to transform food, urban, and energy systems, and move to a circular economy. Business as usual will guarantee disaster; incremental change will not suffice. The only solution is transformational change.