Planetary management

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Planetary management is intentional global-scale management of Earth's biological, chemical and physical processes and cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, and others). Planetary management also includes managing humanity’s influence on planetary-scale processes.[1] Effective planetary management aims to prevent destabilisation of Earth's climate, protect biodiversity and maintain or improve human well-being. More specifically, it aims to benefit society and the global economy, and safeguard the ecosystem services upon which humanity depends – global climate, freshwater supply, food, energy, clean air, fertile soil, pollinators, and so on.

Because of the sheer complexity and enormous scope of the task, it remains to be seen whether planetary management is a feasible paradigm for maintaining global sustainability. The concept currently has defenders and critics on both sides: Environmentalist David W. Orr questions whether such a task can be accomplished with human help and technology or without first examining the underlying human causes,[2] while geographer Vaclav Smil acknowledges that "the idea of planetary management may seem preposterous to many, but at this time in history there is no rational alternative".[3]

Background[edit]

The term has been around in science fiction novels since the 1970s.[citation needed] In 2004, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme published “Global Change and the Earth System, a planet under pressure.”[4] The publication’s executive summary concluded: “An overall, comprehensive, internally consistent strategy for stewardship of the Earth system is required”. It stated that a research goal is to define and maintain a stable equilibrium in the global environment. In 2009, the planetary boundaries concept was published in the science journal Nature. The paper identifies nine boundaries in the Earth system. Remaining within these nine boundaries, the authors suggest, may safeguard the current equilibrium.

In 2007, France called for UNEP to be replaced by a new and more powerful organization, the United Nations Environment Organization. The rationale was that UNEP’s status as a programme, rather than an organization in the tradition of the World Health Organization or the World Meteorological Organization, weakened it to the extent that it was no longer fit for purpose given current knowledge of the state of Earth. The call was backed by 46 countries. Notably, the top five emitters of greenhouse gases failed to support the call.[5]

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