This book deals with how we can learn to live within our planet’s boundaries. With astonishing photographs and in depth commentary, it serves as an inspiration for action. We face a turning point in human history and the state of the Earth. We must bend the curves of global environmental change that are propelling us towards catastrophic risks. Nothing less than the world as we know it is at stake. With a fundamental shift in mindset, humanity can succeed in a transition to global sustainability.
Over the past 10,000 years, we have lived on a stable planet with extraordinarily favorable environmental conditions. In that time, we have developed tools that have let us grow at an astonishing rate, from handheld axes to moderndayindustrial machines and fossil fuels. We have dumped chemical pollution into our planet’s waters and skies, and cut down its forests. And yet, our resilient planet has bounced back from these assaults, while continuing to provide ecosystem services such as food, clean water, and clean air.
But the next ten years could prove to be the turning point for our seemingly healthy planet. We may have stretched Earth’s resilience to its breaking point.
Over the past 50 years, our unsustainable ways of living have begun to put immense pressure on the planetary processes that support our wellbeing and economic development. Loss of biodiversity, erosion of the world’s soils, and thesteady pressures of climate change are only a few of the clues that some of the planet’s support systems may be close to failure.
These systems all show the same pattern, whether it’s the steady upward growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the disappearance of the rainforest wiped out by agricultural lands, or the plunging numbers of species that survive the onslaught of industrial fishing boats that put food on our tables while emptying the seas. These curves are climbing ever closer toward tipping points that spell ecological disaster – and disaster for humanity.
We need to find ways to “bend” these curves away from such global risks. And we need to do it now, in what may be the most decisive decade in human history on planet Earth. This book is about deepening the insights of our social-ecological predicament as a source of hope and innovation. We need nothing less than a great transformation of societies in the world, and we believe it is possible.