Earth is teetering perilously close to a tipping point — a state of environmental collapse beyond which humanity cannot survive.
But it’s not too late to bring us back from the edge, says Conservation International’s Chief Scientist Johan Rockström in a new Netflix film.
Released today, “Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet” is narrated by world-renowned naturalist David Attenborough and follows the scientific journey of Rockström, an internationally recognized expert on sustainability and the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The documentary elucidates Rockström’s seminal scientific discovery: We’re pushing the boundaries of Earth’s systems past the point at which they can sustain us.
“Humanity has enjoyed a 10,000-year stretch of relative stability on Earth … this stability is the foundation of farming and our civilization. Everything we know and love depends on it,” Rockström writes in a recent blog. “It is tempting to think this is another climate story. But it is much bigger. It is about Earth’s life support system — the biosphere, a thin veil clinging to the surface of Earth where life thrives.”
According to Rockström, there is a silver lining: “The future is in our hands,” he says in the film.
Throughout the documentary, he offers tangible solutions to avoid crossing critical thresholds — from the overuse of fresh water to the acidification of the ocean — that would threaten the natural systems humanity depends on. Some strategies include cutting greenhouse gases to zero, protecting nature to absorb planet-warming emissions, and changing our diets and the way we grow food.
“There has never been a more important time to communicate the science of what is happening to our planet,” Attenborough writes about the film. “The research featured in ‘Breaking Boundaries’ is one of the clearest explanations I’ve seen of the threats we face and how we might tackle them.”
And with world leaders set to convene at a series of environmental negotiations later this year, this roadmap to recovery could help countries prevent climate catastrophe.
“What happens over the next centuries will be determined by how we play our cards this decade,” Rockström says in the film. “Now is the last chance we have to bend the global curve [of emissions]. It’s a question of framing the entire growth model around sustainability and have the planet guide everything we do.”
Watch the full film here.
Cover image: Earth from space (© NASA)