Media library

Abstract: Planetary boundaries can be understood generically as a notion describing our recognition of the Earth’s biophysical limits e.g. in ecological economics and the limits to growth literature. However, it has recently become heavily associated with an article by Rockström et al. that appeared in Nature in 2009. This is probably the first time that the notion has been used as an exclusively ‘scientific concept’. That is, the concept has been presented with operational definitions and quantified thresholds for nine essential Earth-system processes. This paper aims to deconstruct the understanding being attributed to biophysical limits by such an approach and to question how a degrowth perspective might do better. A key part of the concern here is the divergence between a conceptualisation of limits (i.e., planetary boundaries) in terms of human instrumentalism from one recognising Nature’s intrinsic value. The latter is argued to be more akin to a degrowth perspective. Can these perspectives be reconciled?
Keywords: planetary boundaries, intrinsic value, democratic decision-making, objective knowledge, critical realism