In a new paper in Ambio, published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science in the leadup to the upcoming “Our Planet, Our Future” Nobel Prize Summit, a team of international scientists provides an overview of humanity’s volatile relationship with the planet, but also discusses ways in which global sustainability can still be achieved. One of the key points in the report is that humans need to think of ourselves as embedded in the biosphere, rather than being separate from it, and that any societal changes need to bear this in mind.

The report discusses the importance of living within the Earth’s nine planetary boundaries — that is, system processes that are essential in regulating the stability and resilience of the planet, but have limits up to which they can tolerate changes due to human activities. These boundaries are identified as climate change, biosphere integrity, ocean acidification, depletion of the ozone layer, atmospheric aerosol pollution, biogeochemical flows of nitrogen and phosphorus, freshwater use, land-system change, and the release of novel chemicals such as heavy metals and plastics.

While the issues facing our planet are formidable, demanding urgent and large-scale action to remedy, the paper suggests that solutions are at hand. The key, according to the authors, lies in transformative change: sweeping, fundamental revisions that can help restructure society and our relationship with the world.

Social innovations, broad shifts in cultural repertoires, different approaches to biosphere stewardship, and emerging technologies can all play a role in this transformation, according to the report.

“Of course it’s overwhelming … but there are ways out of it,” Folke says. “That’s the hopeful thing. I don’t really believe in just talking about the crisis and the doomsday [scenario]. I think that’s not the way to go, but really instead looking into the opportunities for … transformation.”

Read the full article about sustainability in earth's future at Eco-Business.