Managing our Intangible Home

If it’s true that most of the benefits provided by Biosphere are legally non-existent due to their intangible character and global dispersion. To give social existence to these benefits it’s necessary to have a comprehensive global legal support to cover the global dispersion. But this is not enough by itself, for giving social visibility to these benefits. The legal recognizion of the favourable state of the Earth System as a new Common Intangible Natural Heritage of Humankind, although it is a structural step to organize our use of the Earth System, it is not sufficient to achieve this goal. According to Carl Folke (2011), “A significant part of this challenge is to make the work of the biosphere visible in society, in human actions and in financial and economic transactions”.

This visibility is only possible if we can address these four steps in an integrated way:

Legal Recognition

The legal existence of the benefits realized in the state of the Earth System it’s only possible through its capture in a Common Intangible Natural Heritage of Humankind. We can also define this step as the social internalization of positive and negative economic “externalities” in an intangible global legal support, i.e, with a new tool with the same intangible character of “externalities”. Without the legal existence, there is no possibility to translate these global fluxes in the terms of rights and obligations of States in the process of its implementation.

New Integrated tool of measurement

Definition of a new metric with an integrated approach the ability to include the set of biophysical control-variables which determine the state of the Earth System (Planetary Boundaries) in one only unit. The Life Support Unit. The goal is to built one metric that allows to approach the Earth System as a whole with all the inner global interconections, and not just components or parts of the system. For example, in terms of climate, not only the Climate System is an integral part of the Earth System, but also the climate system itself does not depend only on the concentration of CO2. Although the CO2 is in the core drive of the climate system, the non-inclusion of others control-variables in the climate equation could lead to a dysfunction between the strategy for action and the interdependent reality of the Earth System. For example: “Tropical forests that have significant feedbacks to climate via changes in evapotranspiration when they are converted to non-forested systems, while changes in the distribution of boreal forests affect the albedo of the land surface and hence regional energy exchange. Both have strong regional and global teleconnections (Steffen et al 2015)”. This partial and disintegrated approach may, it’s one of main barriers between our action and the possibility of having results.

Economic Valuation

According to the primitive accounting/economic methods still prevailing, the value of these vital forests for our lives and future generations, only enters into the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country where these ecosystems are located and becomes visible in the financial and economic transactions of society, on the day these forests are destroyed and turned into “Raw material”. The supreme value of keeping the state of the Earth System inside the Safe Operating Space, and avoid a “Tipping Point”, worth zero in our economic system.

The great question still being this one: As long as the value of the Biosphere only becomes visible in society on the day of its destruction, it will be impossible to reach the civilizational journey from Explorers and Exploiters... to Guardians and Managers.

The restoration and maintenance in a long-term horizon a Holocene-like state of the Earth System, it is only possible if are able to transform the current paradigm of “use of resources” to a paradigm of “resources production”. For this to happen, to bridge the gap between the scientific approach that is based on the (global) intrinsic features of Earth System structure and functioning, and the governance needs to act on the perturbing human activities at sub-global scales (national or even local), it’s necessary to integrate the Economic System and the Social system, in the Earth System function. And for so, we need: 1) legal recognition, 2) the metric, 3) the economic valuation and 4) the Governance system.

Governance System

The Earth System as a new object law, as a really new global common, must have a governance system, within the United Nations, that establishes the limits of the use of the resources between Nations and develops schemes of incentives to make the governance system works and brings effective results. The restoration and maintenance of the Biosphere cannot constitute an economical loss, for those who carry it out.

This requires one Planetary Boundaries Footprint tool to be articulated in an innovative legal framework and to be coupled with both an economic compensation and a legal correction scheme. These elements must be conceptually integrated for the ESAF to be implementable and functional. This is the work we are doing, that’s the work we want to share with you in this journey. We will you keep informed.