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This conference took place in London, March 2012. It was attended by over 3000 of the world's top scientists and its purpose was to prepare the ground for world politicians who were to meet at the Rio Earth Summit.

The conclusions of the conference are at one and the same time catalysmic and pathetic. The scientists are in no doubt that the Earth has reached a critical point in what they call “Earth systems”. That is to say - “we are in big trouble!” and say it several times over.

Their answer to this is to:

  • urge local government and industry to do more

  • generally try much harder

  • change the way we measure wealth

  • redefine “sustainability”

  • better co-ordination of research

  • take corrective measures to internalize costs met by the Earth's commons (taxes)


The defining challenge of our age is to safeguard Earth’s natural processes to ensure the well-being of civilization while eradicating poverty, reducing conflict over resources, and supporting human and ecosystem health.

As consumption accelerates everywhere and world population rises, it is no longer sufficient to work towards a distant ideal of sustainable development. Global sustainability must become a foundation of society.

Consensus is growing that we have driven the planet into a new epoch, the Anthropocene, in which the living fabric of ecosystems are now dominated by human activities.

The highly interconnected and interdependent Earth systems are susceptible to abrupt and rapid changes and crises, such as global financial meltdowns or the volatility of the global food system.

Existing international arrangements are not dealing quickly enough with current global challenges so it is important that diverse partnerships amongst local, national and regional governments as well as business and civil society provide essential safety nets.

A crucial transformation is to move away from income as the key constituent of well-being and to develop new indicators that measure actual improvements in well-being at all scales.

The international scientific community calls for a framework for regular global sustainability analyses that link existing assessments

We need to link high-quality focused scientific research to new policy-relevant interdisciplinary efforts for global sustainability.

New mechanisms to facilitate an interactive dialogue on global sustainability

New approaches should fully integrate global observing systems for environmental and social issues.

Fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions is required to overcome barriers to progress and to move to effective Earth- system governance.

Corrective measures that internalize costs and minimize the impacts on the commons need to be identified and implemented through regulatory and market-based mechanisms.

Society is taking substantial risks by delaying urgent and large-scale action.


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