Planetary management

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Planetary management is intentional global-scale management of Earth's biological, chemical and physical processes and cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, and others). Planetary management also includes managing humanity’s influence on planetary-scale processes. [1] Effective planetary management aims to prevent destabilisation of Earth's climate, protect biodiversity and maintain or improve human well-being. More specifically, it aims to benefit society and the global economy, and safeguard the ecosystem services upon which humanity depends – global climate, freshwater supply, food, energy, clean air, fertile soil, pollinators, and so on.


Because of the sheer complexity and enormous scope of the task, it remains to be seen whether planetary management is a feasible paradigm for maintaining global sustainability. The concept currently has defenders and critics on both sides: environmentalist David W. Orr questions whether such a task can be accomplished with human help and technology or without first examining the underlying human causes, [2] while geographer Vaclav Smil acknowledges that "the idea of planetary management may seem preposterous to many, but at this time in history there is no rational alternative". [3]


Planetary boundaries according to Rockstrom et al. 2009 and Steffen et al. 2015. The green areas represent human activities that are within safe margins, the yellow areas represent human activities that may or may not have exceeded safe margins, the red areas represent human activities that have exceeded safe margins, and the gray areas with red question marks represent human activities for which safe margins have not yet been determined. Planetary Boundaries 2015.svg
Planetary boundaries according to Rockström et al. 2009 and Steffen et al. 2015. The green areas represent human activities that are within safe margins, the yellow areas represent human activities that may or may not have exceeded safe margins, the red areas represent human activities that have exceeded safe margins, and the gray areas with red question marks represent human activities for which safe margins have not yet been determined.

The term has been around in science fiction novels since the 1970s.[ citation needed ] In 2004, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme published “Global Change and the Earth System, a planet under pressure.” [6] The publication’s executive summary concluded: “An overall, comprehensive, internally consistent strategy for stewardship of the Earth system is required”. It stated that a research goal is to define and maintain a stable equilibrium in the global environment. In 2009, the planetary boundaries concept was published in the science journal Nature. The paper identifies nine boundaries in the Earth system. Remaining within these nine boundaries, the authors suggest, may safeguard the current equilibrium.

In 2007, France called for UNEP to be replaced by a new and more powerful organization, the United Nations Environment Organization. The rationale was that UNEP’s status as a programme, rather than an organization in the tradition of the World Health Organization or the World Meteorological Organization, weakened it to the extent that it was no longer fit for purpose given current knowledge of the state of Earth. The call was backed by 46 countries. Notably, the top five emitters of greenhouse gases failed to support the call. [7]

Comparison with other environmental worldviews

Together with planetary management, stewardship and environmental wisdom are different ways to manage the Earth [8] or "environmental worldviews".

In particular:

See also

Related Research Articles

United Nations Environment Programme Programme of the United Nations

The United Nations Environment Programme is a programme of the United Nations that coordinates the organization's environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded by Maurice Strong, its first director, as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has overall responsibility for environmental problems among United Nations agencies; however, international talks on specialized issues, such as addressing climate change or combating desertification, are overseen by other UN organizations, like the Bonn-based Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. UNEP's activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy. It has played a significant role in developing international environmental conventions, promoting environmental science and information and illustrating the way those can be implemented in conjunction with policy, working on the development and implementation of policy with national governments, regional institutions in conjunction with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). UNEP has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.

There are several conflicting definitions for geosphere.

Biogeochemistry is the scientific discipline that involves the study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment. In particular, biogeochemistry is the study of the cycles of chemical elements, such as carbon and nitrogen, and their interactions with and incorporation into living things transported through earth scale biological systems in space through time. The field focuses on chemical cycles which are either driven by or influence biological activity. Particular emphasis is placed on the study of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus cycles. Biogeochemistry is a systems science closely related to systems ecology.

Global change planetary-scale changes in the Earth system

Global change refers to planetary-scale changes in the Earth system. The system consists of the land, oceans, atmosphere, polar regions, life, the planet's natural cycles and deep Earth processes. These constituent parts influence one another. The Earth system now includes human society, so global change also refers to large-scale changes in society.

Outline of Earth sciences Hierarchical outline list of articles related to Earth sciences

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Earth science:

Life-cycle engineering

Life-cycle engineering (LCE) is a sustainability-oriented engineering methodology that takes into account the comprehensive technical, environmental, and economic impacts of decisions within the product life cycle. Alternatively it can be defined as “sustainability-oriented product development activities within the scope of one to several product life cycles.” LCE requires analysis to quantify sustainability, setting appropriate targets for environmental impact. The application of complementary methodologies and technologies enables engineers to apply LCE to fulfill environmental objectives.

International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme organization

The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) was a research programme that ran from 1987 to 2015 dedicated to studying the phenomenon of global change. Its primary focus was coordinating "international research on global-scale and regional-scale interactions between Earth's biological, chemical and physical processes and their interactions with human systems."

Outline of sustainability Overview of and topical guide to sustainability

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sustainability:

Sustainability Process of maintaining change in a balanced fashion

Sustainability is the ability of a system to exist constantly at a cost, in a universe that evolves towards thermodynamic equilibrium, the state with maximum entropy. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to coexist. It is also defined as the process of people maintaining change in a homeostasis balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. For many in the field, sustainability is defined through the following interconnected domains or pillars: environment, economic and social, which according to Fritjof Capra is based on the principles of Systems Thinking. Sub-domains of sustainable development have been considered also: cultural, technological and political. According to Our Common Future, Sustainable development is defined as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development may be the organizing principle of sustainability, yet others may view the two terms as paradoxical.

Earth system science The scientific study of the Earths spheres and their natural integrated systems

Earth System science (ESS) is the application of systems science to the Earth. In particular, it considers interactions and 'feedbacks', through material and energy fluxes, between the Earth's sub-systems' cycles, processes and "spheres"—atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and even the magnetosphere—as well as the impact of human societies on these components. At its broadest scale, Earth System science brings together researchers across both the natural and social sciences, from fields including ecology, economics, geography, geology, glaciology, meteorology, oceanography, climatology, paleontology, sociology, and space science. Like the broader subject of systems science, Earth System science assumes a holistic view of the dynamic interaction between the Earth's spheres and their many constituent subsystems fluxes and processes, the resulting spatial organization and time evolution of these systems, and their variability, stability and instability. Subsets of Earth System science include systems geology and systems ecology, and many aspects of Earth System science are fundamental to the subjects of physical geography and climate science.

Index of environmental articles Wikipedia index

The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, includes all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth.

Planetary boundaries is a concept involving Earth system processes which contain environmental boundaries, proposed in 2009 by a group of Earth system and environmental scientists led by Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Will Steffen from the Australian National University. The group wanted to define a "safe operating space for humanity" for the international community, including governments at all levels, international organizations, civil society, the scientific community and the private sector, as a precondition for sustainable development. The framework is based on scientific evidence that human actions since the Industrial Revolution have become the main driver of global environmental change.

Vaclav Smil Czech-Canadian interdisciplinary researcher

Václav Smil is a Czech-Canadian scientist and policy analyst. He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His interdisciplinary research interests encompass a broad area of energy, environmental, food, population, economic, historical and public policy studies, and he had also applied these approaches to energy, food and environmental affairs of China. His name is pronounced as "vah:tslahf" and "smil".

The International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) was a research programme that studied the human and societal aspects of the phenomenon of global change.

Will Steffen Climate change scientist

Will Steffen is an American chemist. He was the executive director of the Australian National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute and a member of the Australian Climate Commission until its dissolution in September 2013. From 1998 to 2004, he was the executive director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, a co-ordinating body of national environmental change organisations based in Stockholm.

Johan Rockström swedish hydrologist

Johan Rockström is professor at and former executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. He is a strategist on how resilience can be built into land regions which are short of water, and has published over 100 papers in fields ranging from practical land and water use to global sustainability. Johan Rockström was Executive Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute from 2004-2012.

Diana Liverman Geographer and science writer

Diana Liverman is Regents Professor of Geography and Development, and formerly co-Director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona, USA. She is an expert on the human dimensions of global environmental change and the impacts of climate on society. She was a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) October 8, 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC.

<i>The God Species</i> book by Mark Lynas

The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans is a 2011 book by environmental writer Mark Lynas. It argues that since the Earth has entered an age—the Anthropocene—in which several of its systems are in the control of humanity, and that it is now up to humans to use this power wisely. The book challenges several beliefs usually held by environmentalists, arguing that technology like nuclear power and genetic engineering are useful and necessary tools to keep the Earth system within planetary boundaries, and that the Green movement's insistence on lifestyle changes and opposition to economic growth are unlikely to work.

Prof. Carl Folke, is a trans-disciplinary environmental scientist and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He is a specialist in economics, resilience, and social-ecological systems. He is Science Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Planetary health refers to "the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends". In 2015, the Rockefeller Foundation and The Lancet launched the concept as the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on Planetary Health.


  1. "A manual for planetary management" . Retrieved 2010-03-25.
  2. Orr, David W. (1999). "The Question of Management". In W. B. Willers (ed.). Unmanaged Landscapes: Voices for Untamed Nature . Island Press. ISBN   1-55963-694-7.
  3. Smil, Vaclav (2003). The Earth's Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change. MIT Press. p. 25. ISBN   0-262-69298-8.
  4. Rockström, Steffen & 26 others 2009 .
  5. Steffen, W.; Richardson, K.; Rockstrom, J.; Cornell, S. E.; Fetzer, I.; Bennett, E. M.; Biggs, R.; Carpenter, S. R.; De Vries, W.; De Wit, C. A.; Folke, C.; Gerten, D.; Heinke, J.; Mace, G. M.; Persson, L. M.; Ramanathan, V.; Reyers, B.; Sorlin, S. (2015). "Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet". Science. 347 (6223): 1259855. doi: 10.1126/science.1259855 . PMID   25592418.
  6. "Global Change and the Earth System". Archived from the original on 2010-04-29. Retrieved 2010-03-25. International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
  7. Doyle, Alister (2007-02-03). "46 nations call for tougher U.N. environment role". Reuters.
  8. 1 2 3 Donna Cosmato, What's Your Environmental Worldview?

Further reading