, 40:719 | Cite as

Reconnecting to the Biosphere

  • Carl FolkeEmail author
  • Åsa Jansson
  • Johan Rockström
  • Per Olsson
  • Stephen R. Carpenter
  • F. Stuart ChapinIII
  • Anne-Sophie Crépin
  • Gretchen Daily
  • Kjell Danell
  • Jonas Ebbesson
  • Thomas Elmqvist
  • Victor Galaz
  • Fredrik Moberg
  • Måns Nilsson
  • Henrik Österblom
  • Elinor Ostrom
  • Åsa Persson
  • Garry Peterson
  • Stephen Polasky
  • Will Steffen
  • Brian Walker
  • Frances Westley
Invited Paper


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.


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



The article is based on Folke et al. (2011). Reconnecting to the Biosphere, Working Paper No.1. Prepared for the “3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability: Transforming the World in an Era of Global Change”, in Stockholm, 16–19 May 2011. Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact. We acknowledge support from Stiftelsen Futura, Ebba och Sven Schwartz Stiftelse, Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation, Formas, and Mistra through a core grant to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, a cross-faculty research centre at Stockholm University.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl Folke
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Åsa Jansson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Johan Rockström
    • 1
    • 3
  • Per Olsson
    • 1
  • Stephen R. Carpenter
    • 4
  • F. Stuart ChapinIII
    • 5
  • Anne-Sophie Crépin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gretchen Daily
    • 6
  • Kjell Danell
    • 7
  • Jonas Ebbesson
    • 1
    • 8
  • Thomas Elmqvist
    • 1
    • 9
  • Victor Galaz
    • 1
  • Fredrik Moberg
    • 1
    • 10
  • Måns Nilsson
    • 3
  • Henrik Österblom
    • 11
  • Elinor Ostrom
    • 12
    • 13
  • Åsa Persson
    • 1
    • 3
  • Garry Peterson
    • 1
  • Stephen Polasky
    • 2
    • 14
  • Will Steffen
    • 1
    • 15
  • Brian Walker
    • 1
    • 2
    • 16
  • Frances Westley
    • 17
  1. 1.Stockholm Resilience CentreStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.The Beijer InstituteRoyal Swedish Academy of SciencesStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Stockholm Environment InstituteStockholmSweden
  4. 4.Center for LimnologyUniversity of MadisonMadisonUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  6. 6.Department Biology and Woods Institute for the EnvironmentStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  7. 7.Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Environmental StudiesSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden
  8. 8.Environmental Law, Stockholm Environmental Law and Policy CentreStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  9. 9.Natural Resource Management, Department of Systems EcologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  10. 10.AlbaecoStockholmSweden
  11. 11.Stockholm Resilience Centre and Baltic Nest InstituteStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  12. 12.Workshop in Political Theory and Policy AnalysisIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  13. 13.Center for the Study of Institutional DiversityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  14. 14.Departments of Applied Economics and Ecology, Evolution, and BehaviorUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  15. 15.The ANU Climate Change InstituteAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  16. 16.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsCanberraAustralia
  17. 17.Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and ResilienceUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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