, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 787-794

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Planetary Stewardship in an Urbanizing World: Beyond City Limits

  • Sybil P. SeitzingerAffiliated withInternational Geosphere Biosphere Programme, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Email author 
  • , Uno SvedinAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre
  • , Carole L. CrumleyAffiliated withDepartment of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala UniversityCenter for Biodiversity, Swedish Agricultural University
  • , Will SteffenAffiliated withStockholm Resilience CentreThe ANU Climate Change Institute, The College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University
  • , Saiful Arif AbdullahAffiliated withInstitute for Environment and Development (LESTARI), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
  • , Christine AlfsenAffiliated with
  • , Wendy J. BroadgateAffiliated withInternational Geosphere Biosphere Programme, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • , Frank BiermannAffiliated withInstitute for Environmental Studies (IVM), VU University Amsterdam
  • , Ninad R. BondreAffiliated withInternational Geosphere Biosphere Programme, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
    • , John A. DearingAffiliated withGeography and Environment, University of Southampton
    • , Lisa DeutschAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre
    • , Shobhakar DhakalAffiliated withEnergy Field of Study, Asian Institute of Technology
    • , Thomas ElmqvistAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre
    • , Neda FarahbakhshazadAffiliated withSwedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
    • , Owen GaffneyAffiliated withInternational Geosphere Biosphere Programme, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
    • , Helmut HaberlAffiliated withInstitute of Social Ecology Vienna, Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt
    • , Sandra LavorelAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, CNRS UMR 5553
    • , Cheikh MbowAffiliated withInstitut des Sciences de l’Environment, Laboratoired’Enseignementet de Recherche en Géomatique (LERG), Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique (ESP)/FST, Université Cheikh Anta Diop
    • , Anthony J. McMichaelAffiliated withNational Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University
    • , Joao M. F. deMoraisAffiliated withInternational Geosphere Biosphere Programme, Royal Swedish Academy of SciencesFORSK, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
    • , Per OlssonAffiliated withStockholm Resilience Centre
    • , Patricia Fernanda PinhoAffiliated withIGBP Regional Office Brazil, Brazil Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais
    • , Karen C. SetoAffiliated withYale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
    • , Paul SinclairAffiliated withDepartment of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University
    • , Mark Stafford SmithAffiliated withCSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship
    • , Lorraine SugarAffiliated withThe World Bank Group


Cities are rapidly increasing in importance as a major factor shaping the Earth system, and therefore, must take corresponding responsibility. With currently over half the world’s population, cities are supported by resources originating from primarily rural regions often located around the world far distant from the urban loci of use. The sustainability of a city can no longer be considered in isolation from the sustainability of human and natural resources it uses from proximal or distant regions, or the combined resource use and impacts of cities globally. The world’s multiple and complex environmental and social challenges require interconnected solutions and coordinated governance approaches to planetary stewardship. We suggest that a key component of planetary stewardship is a global system of cities that develop sustainable processes and policies in concert with its non-urban areas. The potential for cities to cooperate as a system and with rural connectivity could increase their capacity to effect change and foster stewardship at the planetary scale and also increase their resource security.


Urban Rural Resources Sustainability Planetary stewardship Global Governance