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Planet Earth's nine lives: Our planet's limits

Nine lives? What's that all about?

People say that cats have nine lives. They fall out of trees or nearly get run over but usually live to see another day. But then, one day, a cat may take one risk too many... and that is the end for that particular puss.

In a sense, our planet Earth too has nine 'lives'. Nature has looked after these planetary 'lives' very well for a very long time. Earth has been quite safe most of the time for most things that have lived on it. Penguins have lived on the planet for many millions of years as have myriads of other animals and plants. Modern humans have only been around for a few tens of thousands of years but, like other living things, didn't threaten any of the planet's 'lives'. Until now, that is.

Today humans are pushing up against the limits of what they can take from the planet and what they can do to it. If they push too hard, some of our planet's 'lives' will be damaged and that's not good. Not good for you, your friends and family, cats, penguins and much of life on Earth.

Nobody quite knew this until some smart scientists from around the world got together to see if they could work out how many 'lives' the planet really had. They discovered that Earth had just nine 'lives' which they named 'planetary boundaries'. Because they were tightly linked, hurting one also hurt others. Knowing this, they then needed to find out how much an Earth 'life' could be pushed by humans before it was in real danger.

Their idea was to give people a guide for how to live without risking any of the planet's 'lives': a manual for helping planet Earth run smoothly without pushing the nine 'life' limits too far.

Because scientists understand a lot about the workings of our planet, they could say quite clearly what the limits were: how far a 'life' boundary could be pushed before it collapsed. It seems that Nature isn't really in charge of planet Earth any more.

People are now in control and have the power to break the planet or fix it. It's a choice you people can make, so you really need to know this and get good at taking care of the planet's 'lives'. This is responsible stewardship. But it hasn't been the way people have treated their home planet at all up to now, mostly because hardly anyone understood or believed that the planet's nine 'life' systems did have limits.

My guide is to show you in simple terms what's wrong and what you people can do about it. That's all one small penguin can do. But you can do everything that's needed to fix the very big problems that are looming. Scientists can show the way but it has to be everyone everywhere acting together for the good of all.

But why, you might wonder, can't the EarthInformationDestroying the planet?Our planet can take care of itself. When people talk about 'saving the planet', they're really referring to keeping the planet habitable for life, particularly human life - like a cat - lose some of its lives and still be just fine?

It turns out that the planet's nine system boundaries ('lives', as I've called them) are interwoven like the different coloured threads in a tapestry.

Each set of threads depends on the others for the tapestry to hold together: they are interdependent. Take some threads away and the whole Earth 'tapestry' is damaged. That spells big trouble for lifeInformationWhat, ALL life???No, not all life. Some living things will survive almost anything. Things like cockroaches, rats and bacteria. But not - sob! - penguins on our one and only home, our world, our planet: Earth.




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