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260. Human Activities in a Globalized Society and the Biosphere

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On March 22, 2021, a white paper Our future in the Anthropocene biosphere, in which Dr. Johan Rockström, a proponent of the planetary boundaries concept, also participated as a co-author, was published in Ambio, a journal of environment and society.

The world population was 1 billion in 1800 and reached 2 billion in 1930. The number doubled to 4 billion in 1974. It is now about 8 billion and is projected to reach 9-11 billion by the end of the 21st century. The authors pointed out that over the past century, especially since the 1950s, human economic activities have become globalized at an accelerating pace with the use of fossil fuels, innovations in social organizations and technologies, and cultural development.

The paper provided evidence that human influence is the dominant factor altering the earth. Currently, 75% of the earth’s surface which is not covered with ice, has been altered by human activities, and similarly, there is no area in the ocean that is unaffected by humans. The current world population is estimated to be 10 times larger than all wild mammals in terms of weight. With the addition of livestock, wild animals make up only about 4% of all mammals on the planet, and poultry are said to weigh more than three times the weight of wild birds. Through artificial selection of harvests and chemical pollution processes related to the reproduction of crops, livestock, trees and microorganisms, human beings directly and indirectly determine the survival and destruction of species and modify the biosphere that covers the earth. The accumulation of these human activities is affecting the Earth's system and its biosphere at the planetary level. The era of expansion of human activity on an unprecedented scale is now referred to as a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene.

The authors also provided a systematic overview on how human activities have caused disturbances such as the new corona pandemic, climate change, and biodiversity loss, and emphasized the importance of maintaining the biosphere that supports biodiversity in order to build a sustainable and resilient global society.

Japan, which relies on the international market for 60% of its calorie-based food, needs to actively contribute to international cooperation through science and technology innovation. Especially in developing countries, where population growth is expected to continue and major changes in the quality and quantity of global food demand are expected, there are challenges in terms of sustainable supply, and climate crises within the territory of planetary boundaries and there is a need to build a resilient system. JIRCAS contributes to international cooperation through the development of agriculture, forestry and fisheries technology in developing countries.

Folke, C., Polasky, S., Rockström, J. et al. Our future in the Anthropocene biosphere. Ambio 50, 834–869 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-021-01544-8

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Research Strategy Office)