Reconnecting to the biosphere

Carl Folke*, Åsa Jansson, Johan Rockström, Per Olsson, Stephen R. Carpenter, F. Stuart Chapin, Anne Sophie Crépin, Gretchen Daily, Kjell Danell, Jonas Ebbesson, Thomas Elmqvist, Victor Galaz, Fredrik Moberg, Måns Nilsson, Henrik Österblom, Elinor Ostrom, Åsa Persson, Garry Peterson, Stephen Polasky, Will SteffenBrian Walker, Frances Westley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

347 Citations (Scopus)


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 biospherea global sustainability agenda for humanity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-738
Number of pages20
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive governance
  • Ecosystem services
  • Natural capital
  • Planetary stewardship
  • Resilience
  • Socialecological systems


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