Our future in the Anthropocene biosphere

Carl Folke*, Stephen Polasky, Johan Rockström, Victor Galaz, Frances Westley, Michèle Lamont, Marten Scheffer, Henrik Österblom, Stephen R. Carpenter, F.S. Chapin, Karen C. Seto, Elke U. Weber, Beatrice I. Crona, Gretchen C. Daily, Partha Dasgupta, Owen Gaffney, Line J. Gordon, Holger Hoff, Simon A. Levin, Jane LubchencoWill Steffen, Brian H. Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

248 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an interconnected and tightly coupled globalized world in rapid change. This article sets the scientific stage for understanding and responding to such change for global sustainability and resilient societies. We provide a systemic overview of the current situation where people and nature are dynamically intertwined and embedded in the biosphere, placing shocks and extreme events as part of this dynamic; humanity has become the major force in shaping the future of the Earth system as a whole; and the scale and pace of the human dimension have caused climate change, rapid loss of biodiversity, growing inequalities, and loss of resilience to deal with uncertainty and surprise. Taken together, human actions are challenging the biosphere foundation for a prosperous development of civilizations. The Anthropocene reality—of rising system-wide turbulence—calls for transformative change towards sustainable futures. Emerging technologies, social innovations, broader shifts in cultural repertoires, as well as a diverse portfolio of active stewardship of human actions in support of a resilient biosphere are highlighted as essential parts of such transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)834-869
Number of pages36
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2021


  • Anthropocene
  • Biodiversity
  • Biosphere stewardship
  • Climate
  • Resilience
  • Social-ecological


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