Climate change requires the creation of institutions that connect all the planet’s poles and manage the influence of human actions on Earth, write Lívia Pagotto and Izabella Teixeira

In March, the United Nations Environment Program International Resource Panel published the new edition of report (PDF – 14 MB) Global Resource Overview. Launched since 2019, the study this time has the title “Bend the trend: Pathways to a livable planet as resource use spikes”which in translation is something like “Reverse the trend: Paths to a habitable planet in the face of growing resource consumption”.

The messages about our current consumption and production patterns are clear: the global economy is consuming more and more natural resources, while the world is not on track to achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). In practice, this means that the use of materials has increased 3 times in the last 50 years and will continue to increase at around 2.3% per year.

The climate and biodiversity impacts resulting from the extraction and processing of materials far exceed the goals for the world to stay within the 1.5 ºC average temperature target. High-income countries use 6 times more materials per capita and are responsible for 10 times more climate impacts per capita than low-income countries.

The projected growth of up to 60% in the use of natural resources by 2060 could disrupt the achievement of efforts to combat the climate crisis and the (accelerated) loss of biodiversity, as well as economic prosperity and the well-being of global society.

This is not just another science alert or just another global report. The accelerated disruptive process in the relationship between man and nature is at the basis of the triple planetary environmental emergency: climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution and waste). Furthermore, the growing and inefficient use of natural resources is its main vector of pressure and transformation.

The action of science is political and no longer limited to the domains of academia. With increasingly sophisticated modeling and supported by supercomputers for data processing, information is directed to geopolitical, economic and security contexts. They indicate risks and vulnerabilities with asymmetric impacts globally and highlight interests and ambitions around natural resources still available in relative abundance in a few places in the world.

It is necessary to redefine humanity’s relationship with nature, in addition to renegotiating the intensive and inefficient use of natural resources in the world in the economy. This implies reviewing how global society perceives the planet and appropriates it.

Scientific knowledge intensifies and also seeks to have traditional knowledge as an ally, in an affirmative, inclusive and structured trajectory of this challenge that shapes the 21st century. Science denounces the limits of the planet, the vulnerability of its resilience and its ecological processes.

The scenarios of increasing global population and growing demands for natural resources to account for the convergence of the climate, digital-technological and biological eras outline the relationships and interdependence of countries and their societies with the planet.

But, after all, what is planetary in our times?


First, the verification of scientific evidence and the effects of human activities on the Earth system. Scientists claim that planet Earth has entered a new era, the Anthropocene (a period with warmer temperatures after the last glaciation), in which human beings have become the main agents not only of changes in the Earth system, but also the drivers of rupture of this system, preventing its resilience.

Therefore, in order to deal with what is planetary, it is essential that we improve our knowledge of relevant processes on a global scale:

  • changes in the dynamics and composition of the atmosphere;
  • climate change, carbon cycle and sea level fluctuations;
  • global ecology;
  • impacts on food security, water resources and urban sustainability.

In this case, science plays a fundamental role and is represented, for example, by the scientific community called ESS (Earth System Science) and, especially, by Stockholm Resilience Centre. In September 2023, a team of scientists quantified, for the first time, all 9 processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system based on the initial design of the analytical framework of planetary boundaries proposed by Johan Rockström and a group of 28 scientists in 2009.


Second, the challenge to what we call global as a synonym for planetary. Areas of knowledge such as anthropology, geography, international relations and geology have been questioning the limitations of the concept of what is global and globalization for years. The editors’ definition is enlightening Jonathan S. Blake e Nils Gilmanem article in the magazine Novemberwhich focuses on the critical issues transforming the world today.

For them, the term “planetary” – which refers to “issues, processes and conditions that span the Earth and transcend nation-states”– e “global” e “globalization” are currently popular terms to describe global-scale issues. However, say the authors, the planet is not the globe:

“The globe is a conceptual category that frames the Earth in human terms. Globalization, likewise, adopts a fundamentally human-centered understanding of the ‘integration’ that has occurred in recent decades – the accelerating flow of people, goods, ideas, money and more.

“The planetarium, on the other hand, frames the Earth without specific reference to human beings. […] The Earth is not just ours. […] Humans are embedded in and codependent on microbes, climate, and emerging technologically enabled transspecies communities.”.

More critical interpretations of the idea of “globalization” will define it as a totalizing and homogenizing concept that represents this new scale, created from recent economic practices that surpassed international borders, and that seeks to soften the richness and heterogeneity of the social and cultural world according to the post-economic contours. colonials.


Third, the establishment of a planetary policy (or planetary politics). The convening of what is sometimes called zeitgeist planetary, and other times of planetary turn (planetary turn) will require a radical new way of understanding the world. It should also deviate from the escapist idea that we need to colonize other planets.

The need to implement a planetary policy results directly from the fact that, since the end of the 19th century, humanity has become a geophysical force, affecting not only local and regional ecosystems, but all Earth systems. Thus, new institutions are required that operate more cooperation between North-South and West and Non-West, intergenerational and scientifically based time horizons and manage complex connections between local and global and humanity’s influence on processes on a planetary scale.

These are essential measures to avoid destabilization of the Earth’s climate, protect biodiversity and maintain or improve human well-being. It is clear that these new institutions must go beyond nation-states: we need collective action on a planetary scale, with appropriate governance and financing.

Ultimately, the challenge lies in renegotiating the relationship between man and nature, a kind of nature enlinghtment, that shapes ways and styles of life in the 21st century in a more fair, inclusive, supportive and intelligent way. This depends more on us than on the planet itself, which follows its path according to its wishes. After all, you cannot control nature.


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