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What is Long Future? - Habitable Zone - Planetary Boundaries - The Diagram - Back in Sync


What is Long Future?

The term Long Future can be used in three different ways:


Long Future is a contraction of the term Long Future Sustainability, an umbrella concept that places all of the many claims to 'sustainability' into a global, integrated, systemic context through a Framework and a number of Core Elements.

The Long Future Framework includes four key ideas including:

- Habitable Zone
- Planetary Boundaries
- The Long Future Diagram
- Back-in-Sync

Core Elements of Long Future Sustainability include:

The Biosphere - Gaia Theory - Thermodynamic Oil Collapse - Superclass Power - Planetary Boundaries - Climate Change - Biosphere Integrity - Humans on Mars - Fukushima - Near Term Extinction - Abrupt Climate Change - The Sixth Extinction - Nukes - Steady State, Blue and Circular Economies - Over the Precipice - The Triad


Long Future is the idea that we humans could live on this planet for millions of years if we act accordingly. Long Future describes what sustainability is, how to achieve it; and answers the question: how long does sustainability last?


Long Future is an Australian environmental and educational charity that pioneered the Long Future concept; a suite of ideas that ought to be at the forefront of every leaders mind as they navigate the future.

The information below outlines the Long Future Sustainability Framework.


The Long Future Sustainability Framework

The Long Future Sustainability Framwork seeks to create a common frame of reference under which all 'sustainability claims' can be placed into context. It starts by creating a temporal frame for the conversation about sustainability, and answers the question: "how long could sustainability last?


Habitable Zone

Life has existed on Earth for over 3.8 billion years because Earth's orbit around the Sun is not so distant that all the water freezes, nor so close that all the water boils off.

Earth is said to occupy the 'Goldilocks Zone' or more scientifically, the Circumstellar Habitable Zone.

Scientists tell us that Earth will continue remain in this zone - and be habitable for life - for another 1.75 - 3.25 billion years. Beyond this time, the Sun will expand and eventually Earth will be baked dry, taking all of life with it.

This is a crucial and overlooked part of the sustainability conversation. What this means is that your business or organisation could be providing goods and services hundreds, thousands, if not millions of years from now!!

We call this the Long Future.

However, we will not get to enjoy the Long Future if we continue to destroy the planet, the way we are doing. Have we destroyed too much? What are the safe limits? These questions are answered by the Planetary Boundaries.


Planetary Boundaries

Planetary Boundaries is an initiative of the Stockholm Resilience Center.

In order for business to thrive on Earth, it is necessary for the natural systems of Earth to stay within nine planetary boundaries.

As the diagram below shows, we have already pushed beyond the safe zone of four of the nine boundaries:

  • Climate Change
  • Biogeochemical Flows (nitrogen and phosphorus pollution)
  • Land System Change
  • Biosphere Integrity - Genetic Diversity (species loss)

Antarctic cruise ship Akademik Sergey Vavilov in the ice.

Unfortunately, the main drivers that are stressing the planetary boundaries are still in place: economic growth using unsustainable business models that destroy natural capital.

We need new business models that restore natural capital if we are to be assured of maintaining a safe operating space for humanity.

Johan Rockstrom from the Stockholm Resilience Centre talks about the Planetary Boundaries >>

A number of future scenarios that consider the extent to which the Planetary Boundaries are protected or perturbed can be seen in the Long Future Diagram.

The Long Future Diagram

The Long Future Diagram shows the relationship between the demand and availability of natural capital and the Short and Long Futures. If we can steer the global economy onto the sustainable, blue, trajectory, we can enjoy the Long Future.

Contributing to the Long Future, is an noble aim for any organisation.

If we humans can get our planet onto the Blue Trajectory, then we will get back into sync with nature, and enjoy the Long Future.


Back in Sync

For most of the 200,000 years that humans have been on Earth, we have lived in-sync with nature. This is to say that we did not damage or interfere with the Earth Systems Processes and did not exceed the Planetary Boundaries. We gave as much natural capital as we took.

However, in the past 12,000 years, since the advent of human civilization, we have falled out-of-sync with nature. We have busted through the Planetary Boundaries and squandered the abundant natural capital.

In order to enjoy the Long Future, we need to get back-in-sync with nature.

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