Planetary boundaries and doughnuts

In 2009, the Stockholm Resilience Center presented Johan Rocksröm's model of planetary boundaries. It has 9 different indicators that measure almost all environmental problems. The only things that there are no are light pollution, noise, radiation and comfort and aesthetics. Planetary boundaries are: freshwater use, land use (including desertification, deforestation, etc.), biodiversity, climate change, fine particles, chemical pollution, air aerosols and fine particles, ozone levels, ocean acidification, and biogeochemical flows of nitrogen and phosphorus (especially eutrophication). Many of these indicators have been severely exceeded.

The surface of the earth is covered by a thin biosphere as a thin green film, sensitive to consumption, sensitive to disappearing. Earth's atmosphere is thin and cannot withstand pollution. We live like in a glass house, where you shouldn't throw stones. After all, we live on a small planet that is in danger because of us.

We live in a sphere that is finite and has certain boundaries that cannot be crossed. Unlimited consumption would lead to the destruction of the earth. Our ecological footprint or carbon footprint cannot grow forever because we are running out of land and atmosphere. 90% of environmental problems are caused by the fact that we take matter (natural resources) from nature, use them (for example, burn) and return them to nature as waste. This linear economic model does not work, instead we need a circular economy that recycles everything, which also takes only a few new resources from nature. The amount of waste should be kept to a minimum.

The finiteness of our planet and its resources causes us to have certain boundary conditions that set limits for us. Water must not be used more than it is renewed. You must not release more carbon into the air than the vegetation binds it, because otherwise the climate will warm. With the planetary boundaries model, we can visually see where the boundaries have been crossed and how badly and where they are close to being crossed. With these 9 different indicators, we can measure how serious the problems are on a global scale. Environmental change is a change in the state of the environment, in the use of land or natural resources, or in physical-chemical conditions. These environmental changes are measured by these 9 indicators. They are measured, for example, by field studies, species and biotope mapping, studying the composition and chemistry of the atmosphere and soil, water samples and satellites and remote sensing.

The planetary boundaries have been badly crossed in the case of biodiversity, there is a wave of extinction, which is caused especially by land use and the changing climate. Land use is also at a dangerous level, especially deforestation, nature loss and desertification are serious. Forest nature and its diversity are impoverishing at an enormous speed. There are too many clearcuts, particularly destructive are clearcuts, which destroy all the animals and plants in the area. Even those animals that survive have a hard time finding a new home. The use of water is also so-called in the case of agricultural irrigation water, i.e. green water, too much. Irrigation water is running out in many places. After all, there is still mostly enough drinking water. Climate change is already at a very dangerous level, extreme weather phenomena such as storms, floods and droughts threaten millions of people. Last year, a third of Pakistan was covered in flood. A few years ago, forest fires in Australia destroyed an area the size of Belgium. In the Horn of Africa, there is a humanitarian crisis caused by drought caused by climate change. Chemical pollution is at an extremely serious level. Extremely. The world is full of poisons. Mines, oil and natural gas drilling, pesticides used in agriculture, industrial waste, the world is becoming more polluted all the time. Biogeochemical nitrogen and phosphorus flows are growing at an alarming rate. Their numbers are at their limit. The reason is especially the cultivation of fodder required by meat production. Because of this, the Baltic Sea is in extremely bad shape.

As we can see, the situation is very or at least quite bad and serious on several indicators. We live in a time of environmental crisis. A crisis that could eventually lead to the destruction of our planet. Climate change is really such a serious threat that it can destroy up to 95% of life on Earth if it gets out of hand. This is what happened in the Permian period hundreds of millions of years ago, when climate change killed 95% of life on Earth. Stopping climate change requires reducing carbon emissions to zero. Renewable energy, especially wind power, solar power and hydrogen technology, play a key role in this. It is also imperative that we protect the world's carbon sinks and forests. In the Montreal agreement, it was already agreed that each country must protect 1/3 of its nature. However, this is not enough, the goal must be to protect at least 1/2 of the earth's surface. In addition to this, a huge amount of new forest must be planted. Trees are the best carbon sinks. More of them are needed, especially in the tropics, where rainforests are currently being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. Humans have already destroyed half of the world's forests. This has also led to the fact that half of the biosphere's carbon is now in the atmosphere. Before there was 1000 Gt of carbon in the biosphere, now only 560 Gt. The Paris Climate Agreement 2015 with its global goals was an extremely important benchmark. Likewise, the global Agenda 2030 goals agreed by the UN in the same year. Agenda2030 directly responds to planetary boundaries and social problems. Clear and ambitious goals are extremely important. The recent IPCC report also raises hope. We will upgrade the climate and environmental crisis if we act now. It's great to see how young people in particular have taken action like Greta Thunberg. Greta deserves a Nobel Prize.

Along with the climate, another particularly big problem is the loss of nature, i.e. the loss of biodiversity, ecosystems, species and genes. The main reason for this is land use, especially the destruction of forests. The threat of many large species, such as the elephant or the wolf, is also caused especially by hunting or poaching. Nature destruction can only be stopped by protecting large areas as nature reserves and calming down species, reducing logging to a minimum and reducing arable land. The Montreal Agreement was very welcome in this regard. Like the Paris Climate Agreement, the Montreal Agreement also defined clearly measurable limits and goals. Without these, the states' actions would probably remain just fancy words and talk.

Kate Raworth's donut economy model has been developed based on planetary boundaries. In it, ecological factors, i.e. planetary boundaries, create the conditions for the existence of human society and boundaries for the economy, and social factors, such as the elimination of poverty and peace, create the social basis for happy human communities. 17 Agenda2030 goals can be set on different sides of the doughnut. Ecological sustainability is the basis of everything. Without nature, there is no human community. Nature supports the entire human community. We need and depend on the services provided by nature, ecosystem services that are based on the efficient and good functioning of nature. These include, for example, the water cycle, pollination by insects and the maintenance of climate stability. The value of ecosystem services has been calculated to be more than the gross domestic product of the entire world. It is also important to value ecosystem services in monetary terms, so that we can put price tags on polluters and limits on emissions and, for example, water use. Even though nature has intrinsic value, we must also have a defined monetary value in order to better protect ecosystem services.

Ecosystem services are directly proportional to the amount of biodiversity. The greater the biodiversity, the greater the yield of ecosystem services and the better they work. For example, the protection of trees prevents floods, protects the normal circulation of water and cleans the air. A large number of pollinating bees improves the state of nature, but also the crops harvested by humans. Let's nurture and protect biodiversity.

Daniel Elkama


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