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Ambio. Nov 2011; 40(7): 719–738.
Published online Oct 6, 2011. doi:  10.1007/s13280-011-0184-y
PMCID: PMC3357749
Reconnecting to the Biosphere
Carl Folke,corresponding author1,2 Åsa Jansson,1,2 Johan Rockström,1,3 Per Olsson,1 Stephen R. Carpenter,4 F. Stuart Chapin, III,5 Anne-Sophie Crépin,1,2 Gretchen Daily,6 Kjell Danell,7 Jonas Ebbesson,1,8 Thomas Elmqvist,1,9 Victor Galaz,1 Fredrik Moberg,1,10 Måns Nilsson,3 Henrik Österblom,11 Elinor Ostrom,12,13 Åsa Persson,1,3 Garry Peterson,1 Stephen Polasky,2,14 Will Steffen,1,15 Brian Walker,1,2,16 and Frances Westley17
1Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
2The Beijer Institute, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, PO Box 50005, 10405 Stockholm, Sweden
3Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
4Center for Limnology, University of Madison, Madison, WI USA
5Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK USA
6Department Biology and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, CA USA
7Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden
8Environmental Law, Stockholm Environmental Law and Policy Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
9Natural Resource Management, Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
10Albaeco, Stockholm, Sweden
11Stockholm Resilience Centre and Baltic Nest Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
12Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN USA
13Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ USA
14Departments of Applied Economics and Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN USA
15The ANU Climate Change Institute, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT Australia
16CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra, ACT Australia
17Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON Canada
Carl Folke, carl.folke/at/, carl.folke/at/
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Received June 29, 2011; Accepted June 29, 2011.
Humanity has emerged as a major force in the operation of the biosphere, with a significant imprint on the Earth System, challenging social–ecological resilience. This new situation calls for a fundamental shift in perspectives, world views, and institutions. Human development and progress must be reconnected to the capacity of the biosphere and essential ecosystem services to be sustained. Governance challenges include a highly interconnected and faster world, cascading social–ecological interactions and planetary boundaries that create vulnerabilities but also opportunities for social–ecological change and transformation. Tipping points and thresholds highlight the importance of understanding and managing resilience. New modes of flexible governance are emerging. A central challenge is to reconnect these efforts to the changing preconditions for societal development as active stewards of the Earth System. We suggest that the Millennium Development Goals need to be reframed in such a planetary stewardship context combined with a call for a new social contract on global sustainability. The ongoing mind shift in human relations with Earth and its boundaries provides exciting opportunities for societal development in collaboration with the biosphere—a global sustainability agenda for humanity.
Keywords: Social–ecological systems, Resilience, Ecosystem services, Natural capital, Adaptive governance, Planetary stewardship
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