Irreversible environmental trends

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Transgression of natural thresholds
Exceeding the limits to growth
Overstepping the limits of nature
Excessive critical ecosystem loads
Planetary overload
Degradation of natural life support systems
Overloaded natural life support systems
Global ecological overshoot
Exceedance of earth's sustainable capacity

Unprecedented rates of population growth, swiftly rising incomes and per capita demand, and technological advances, impose requirements on natural systems which may exceed their capacity to respond. As a result the life-support system of the planet may eventually be damaged beyond repair. The fact that perturbations in remote and seemingly unimportant parts of the biosphere can trigger off a chain of cause-effect reactions that ultimately provoke profound changes in the entire system, underlines the absence of world-wide integrated resource management.


Currently (2018), our civilization is running at 40% above its sustainable capacity. We’re rapidly depleting the earth’s forests, animals, insects, fish, freshwater, even the topsoil we require to grow our crops. We’ve already transgressed three of the nine planetary boundaries that define humanity’s safe operating space, and yet global GDP is expected to more than double by mid-century, with potentially irreversible and devastating consequences.



The growth of human activity on the planet has produced effects which are approaching, and in some instances may have exceeded, the thresholds for maintenance of equilibrium balance by the planetary system.

Related Problems:
Problem Type:
A: Abstract Fundamental Problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 15: Life on Land
Date of last update
09.04.2019 – 15:02 CEST