How Much Is Too Much?

Limits. We know about speed limits, spending money limits, and even our parents’ patience limits; but how many of you have heard about Earth’s Environmental Limits? I’m pretty sure that you have heard at least 1 of the 9 planetary limits (or better called planetary boundaries), Climate Change! But what about the other 8? As a matter of fact (maybe by my own ignorance or the fact that they are quite new), before coming to Sweden I had never heard before the term “Planetary Boundaries”.

Everything started with one TED talk from Johan Röckstrom, internationally recognized Swedish scientist, where he introduced for the first time the 9 planetary boundaries. As presented in the image below, you can find our limitations for environmental stability and well-being. Inside the blue circle we are operating within safety levels without jeopardizing our future; by adding pressure to any of the limits, we enter the red circle, or the “uncertainty area”. In this red area we start reaching a point of environmental instability (e.g. more extreme weather for climate change). Passing this circle we enter the DANGER ZONE!

Here are some examples presented by the Stockholm Resilience Center (2015) and the Global Issues paper (2014) of what crossing the red circle has done to our environment:

  • Decline in the shrimp catch in the Gulf’s of Mexico “dead zone” due to fertilizes reaching the water. -Nitrogen and Phosphorus flows boundary
  • Baltic Sea eutrophication. -Nitrogen and Phosphorus flows boundary
  • More than 40% of the global river discharge is now intercepted by large dams. -Biodiversity loss boundary
  • More than 1,500 amphibians, 1,200 birds, and 1,000 mammals among others, are threatened to be extinct. -Biodiversity loss boundary

It’s quite interesting to understand the complexity of these boundaries based on their interconnected relationship. For example, more carbon dioxide leads to global warming and ocean acidification, leading to higher temperatures and melting polar ice-sheets, acid and warmer oceans that destroy coral reefs, food and shelter for many fishes… and well, I could continue with the chain but you’ll be probably gone by then 😀

Found it interesting? Remember that everything we do has positive or negative consequences to the way we thrive.Want to know more about the limits and how they are quantified? Click here and don’t forget to leave your comments and questions!

Remember, climate change is not the only boundary we should be worry about!