A safe operating space for humanity

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Identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change, argue Johan Rockström and colleagues.

- New approach proposed for defining preconditions for human development
- Crossing certain biophysical thresholds could have disastrous consequences for humanity
- Three of nine interlinked planetary boundaries have already been overstepped

Although Earth has undergone many periods of significant environmental change, the planet's environment has been unusually stable for the past 10,000 years. This period of stability - known to geologists as the Holocene — has seen human civilizations arise, develop and thrive.

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Full reference: Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Chapin, III, F.S., Lambin, E., Lenton, T.M., Scheffer, M., Folke, C., Schellnhuber, H., Nykvist, B., De Wit, C.A., Hughes, T., van der Leeuw, S., Rodhe, H., Sörlin, S., Snyder, P.K., Costanza, R., Svedin, U., Falkenmark, M., Karlberg, L., Corell, R.W., Fabry, V.J., Hansen, J., Walker, B.H., Liverman, D., Richardson, K., Crutzen, C., Foley. J. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461: 472-475 DOI 10.1038/461472a

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