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One Scientist’s Hopeful View On How to Repair the Planet


For a researcher who studies how humanity is pushing the earth close to potentially disastrous tipping points, Johan Rockström is surprisingly optimistic. Although he reckons that our species has crossed four of nine “planetary boundaries” — including those on climate change and deforestation — he believes there is still time to pull back from the brink and create a sustainable future based on renewable energy and a “circular” economy that continually reuses resources.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Rockström — executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center and author of a new book, Big World, Small Planet — offers his take on the state of the planet and explains why he thinks there has “never been so much reason for hope as today.” He outlines how humanity can step back inside planetary boundaries, which he calls “the safe operating space of the hard-wired biophysical process of the earth’s system,” and describes how an alignment of science, technological advances, and a growing public and political hunger for action will get civilization back on track.

“It’s not a journey where we are backing into the caves,” says Rockström. “It’s a journey of high technology, good health, of better democracy, and huge, multiple benefits that [go] well beyond saving the planet.”

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