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Earth system justice needed to identify and live within Earth system boundaries


Living within planetary limits requires attention to justice as biophysical boundaries are not inherently just. Through collaboration between natural and social scientists, the Earth Commission defines and operationalizes Earth system justice to ensure that boundaries reduce harm, increase well-being, and reflect substantive and procedural justice. Such stringent boundaries may also affect ‘just access’ to food, water, energy and infrastructure. We show how boundaries may need to be adjusted to reduce harm and increase access, and challenge inequality to ensure a safe and just future for people, other species and the planet. Earth system justice may enable living justly within boundaries.

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Fig. 1: Adding a justice perspective on boundaries.
Fig. 2: Conceptualization of ESJ through just ends and just means.
Fig. 3: Mapping exposure to harm from air pollution.
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6: Creating a corridor.

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This paper was made possible through the voluntary commitment of time and research by the Earth Commissioners and the support of the researchers and secretariat from the Global Challenges Foundation; the Global Commons Alliance, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (with support from Oak Foundation, MAVA, Porticus, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Herlin Foundation and the Global Environment Facility); EC GA 884565; and ERC 101020082 that supported the work of some Commissioners.

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All authors contributed to the work presented in this paper. J.G., D.L., L.J. and K.P. conceptualized and wrote the paper. J.S. and C.R. heavily reviewed the content of the paper. C.O., M.H., D.O., I.M.O., J.D.T., P.A., X.B., W.B., D.C., L.G., C.G., C.Y.A.I., N.K. and L.P. gave specific feedback on different aspects of the paper. J. Rocha contributed to the map in the paper. S.J.L., T.M.L., J. Rockstrom, B.S.-K. and P.H.V. ensured that there were good links with the rest of the Earth Commission work.

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Correspondence to Joyeeta Gupta.

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Gupta, J., Liverman, D., Prodani, K. et al. Earth system justice needed to identify and live within Earth system boundaries. Nat Sustain 6, 630–638 (2023).

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