The last post I talked about larger views from an economic standpoint. Since I am here on staff at the Institute of the Environment, let’s take a look at it from the environmental view.

What I want from this view, is what are the high risk areas environmentally that would Acara should focus the challenges? Climate change is a pretty broad statement and is sort of like world peace. What can I do about it as a small business? The idea of these larger views is to get perspective from leaders in different areas of what are the critical challenges that they see.

There was a recent article in Nature, “A safe operating space for humanity” (Nature, Volume 461, 24 September, 2009), co-authored by 20 some scientists from around the world. (one of the lead authors is Jon Foley, Director of IonE) that proposes a framework based on planetary boundaries, that define the safe operating space for humans on the planet. They define nine processes for which they believe it is necessary to define planetary boundaries: climate change (measured by CO2 levels); rate of biodiversity loss (terrestrial and marine); interference with the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; global freshwater use; change in land use; chemical pollution; and atmospheric aerosol loading. Each of these is defined by a measurable boundary. They claim that three of the boundaries, climate change, rate of biodiversity loss, and interference of the Nitrogen cycle have already been passed.

What’s the point here? This is a starting point for areas to look at that have the most potential for impact. While it’s still a pretty broad list, it does help draw a roadmap of sorts and helps people to see how what they are doing contributes to the larger view. Some of these areas don’t really fit for an Acara challenge, but businesses around more efficient land use, reducing freshwater usage are two where we can directly contribute.

As media heats up around the upcoming Copenhagen summit, this is a good article to read to help you understand what the real limits are that we should worry about.