Culture 3 min read

9 Planetary Boundaries: Our Earth's Vitals are Failing

The planet is experiencing a number of significant changes. Now, scientists are warning that the 9 planetary boundaries, the vital signs of Earth, are beginning to fall into the red.

Our Earth may soon experience a catastrophic environmental crisis. ¦ Jaymantri / Pexels

Our Earth may soon experience a catastrophic environmental crisis. ¦ Jaymantri / Pexels

The Age of Humans, or the Anthropocene, wouldn’t have lasted this long without a conducive climate.

For thousands of years, favorable climate conditions enabled humans to thrive and sit on top of the world. Then in our ascension, we messed up the planetary system.

The same things that got us this far, like combustion engines and electricity generation, are now threatening our very existence.

Read More: The Earth is now Entering “The Plastic Age”

To fulfill our energy needs, we pump out fossil fuels from the ground, burn them, and let their gases free into the atmosphere. To feed more and more hungry mouths, we deforest lands and strain freshwater resources.

We threw into disorder the terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Global warming, atmospheric and marine pollution, ocean acidification, disruption of evolution cycles… et cetera, et cetera.

Long story short, we are our own existential risk.

The 9 Planetary Boundaries: off Limits

Your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol are among the important health numbers that people should keep track of.

These numbers are indicators of how well your body is operating at a given time and allow your doctor to intervene with the appropriate measures.

Like the human body, Earth has its own health issues that naturally concern every living organism.

What about establishing similar benchmarks that help us assess the planet’s health?

In 2009, an international team of 28 scientists led by Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), identified the nine processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system”.

They came up with the concept of the 9 planetary boundaries and quantified the thresholds not to be crossed for humanity to ensure longevity.

The 9 planetary boundaries represent tipping points beyond which there’d be no coming back. Below they are listed in no specific order:

Read More: Reboot for Humanity: What is the Science Renaissance?

In 2015, researchers published an update revealing that “four of the nine systems which regulate the resilience of the Earth” are in the red zone.

“Changes to the Earth’s climate, biosphere integrity (a concept covering loss of biodiversity and species extinction), and land-system (through deforestation for example) represent a risk for current and future societies. The fourth process which has become significantly compromised is the nitrogen-phosphorus cycle, which affects both the water we drink and our ability to produce food.”

Research is going on to continue monitoring the “social-ecological tipping points” at a global, regional, and local scale.

Read More: Milestone: Australia Chooses Climate Change Over Coal

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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