Invited Paper

AMBIO

, Volume 40, Issue 7, pp 719-738

Reconnecting to the Biosphere

  • Carl FolkeAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityThe Beijer Institute, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Email author 
  • , Åsa JanssonAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityThe Beijer Institute, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • , Johan RockströmAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityStockholm Environment Institute
  • , Per OlssonAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
  • , Stephen R. CarpenterAffiliated withCenter for Limnology, University of Madison
  • , F. Stuart ChapinIIIAffiliated withInstitute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • , Anne-Sophie CrépinAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityThe Beijer Institute, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • , Gretchen DailyAffiliated withDepartment Biology and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University
  • , Kjell DanellAffiliated withDepartment of Wildlife, Fish, and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
    • , Jonas EbbessonAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityEnvironmental Law, Stockholm Environmental Law and Policy Centre, Stockholm University
    • , Thomas ElmqvistAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityNatural Resource Management, Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University
    • , Victor GalazAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
    • , Fredrik MobergAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityAlbaeco
    • , Måns NilssonAffiliated withStockholm Environment Institute
    • , Henrik ÖsterblomAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityStockholm Resilience Centre and Baltic Nest Institute, Stockholm University
    • , Elinor OstromAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityWorkshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana UniversityCenter for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State University
    • , Åsa PerssonAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityStockholm Environment Institute
    • , Garry PetersonAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
    • , Stephen PolaskyAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityThe Beijer Institute, Royal Swedish Academy of SciencesDepartments of Applied Economics and Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota
    • , Will SteffenAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityThe ANU Climate Change Institute, Australian National University
    • , Brian WalkerAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityThe Beijer Institute, Royal Swedish Academy of SciencesCSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
    • , Frances WestleyAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm UniversityWaterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience, University of Waterloo

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Abstract

Humanity has emerged as a major force in the operation of the biosphere, with a significant imprint on the Earth System, challenging social–ecological resilience. This new situation calls for a fundamental shift in perspectives, world views, and institutions. Human development and progress must be reconnected to the capacity of the biosphere and essential ecosystem services to be sustained. Governance challenges include a highly interconnected and faster world, cascading social–ecological interactions and planetary boundaries that create vulnerabilities but also opportunities for social–ecological change and transformation. Tipping points and thresholds highlight the importance of understanding and managing resilience. New modes of flexible governance are emerging. A central challenge is to reconnect these efforts to the changing preconditions for societal development as active stewards of the Earth System. We suggest that the Millennium Development Goals need to be reframed in such a planetary stewardship context combined with a call for a new social contract on global sustainability. The ongoing mind shift in human relations with Earth and its boundaries provides exciting opportunities for societal development in collaboration with the biosphere—a global sustainability agenda for humanity.

Keywords

Social–ecological systems Resilience Ecosystem services Natural capital Adaptive governance Planetary stewardship