Back 08.03.2024

In the wonderland of planetary boundaries

red leafed plant

Human imagination is boundless but still meager compared to what nature can propose and reinvent day after day, year after year, time after time. But there is often a difference in how we use this imagination and for what purposes.

Let me take a “donkey bridge” as we Finns like to say and give you a couple tiny examples from popular not so “intellectual cartwheels” that we seem to accept without too much concern for science-based thinking or logic whatsoever.

Case one: we cherish the idea that we can negotiate with planetary boundaries

Have you lately heard somebody note that “Finland is running out of money, we are spending more than we earn”. This is a valid point if we are concerned about Finnish welfare state, and it should be addressed seriously by all political parties, across multiple governmental terms during this decade and the next one. While the argument about addressing this budgetary deficit is generally understood by most people, a strange “intellectual cartwheel” pops-up when we broaden the perspective from economic capital to environmental, also social capital.  The same serious and smart people worried about economic sustainability, suddenly think that we can address the destruction of natural capital sometime later, in an imaginary future “once we can afford to do it”, if at all. While (almost) all economic activity is dependent on ecosystem services and biodiversity in and around us, how come destroying that natural capital isn´t perceived as such a showstopper that we need to act upon it now in order to save the future of Finland?

Case two: we choose freely when & which boundaries and borders to respect

Security concerns understandably take a lot a bandwidth in our minds and in political discussions in early 2024. We take those concerns seriously in Finland taking note of our history and our place on the map. While the futures of our societies are at play due to economic activities trespassing many of the limits for a safe operating space for humanity, the health of our planet is equally a question of security and survival. In this context we can understand that Finland has been politically able and willing to close a 1340 km border with its neighbor – a measure that has never happened before, except in situations of war and national survival.  How come is a country able to rather rapidly take a political decision to close a national border – fully understanding the reasoning of reacting to weaponized migration in all its ugliness – but the planetary borders remain wide open, even if we know that many of the vital planetary boundaries have already been broken?

I know part of the beauty of being human is that we are not always that logical in our behavior but maybe some rigor and common sense could help us in the right direction, as we hopefully aspire to leave a healthy planet to our children and future generations.

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