At the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, March 2012, the people-planet biophysical system was not news. Scientists focused on asking big questions like “Can science save us?” and “What can be done to sustain the planet for future generations?” The focus was on “climate extremes”, “impacts of changing planetary pressures”, “life in extreme environments”, “disaster risk reduction” and “adaptation”. At the conference there were intense debates taking place about “barriers to action”. Delegates from all five continents participated in sessions that focused on what must be done to sustain the planet and its people. “What are the opportunities?” they asked. “What are the challenges?” Presenters spoke of the “lack of strong leadership”, “deficient authority”, the “lack of willingness of governments to act”, “political inertia”, the need for a “paradigm shift” and a “shift in discourse”, “a move from national security to collective security” and a “need for global action”.
In one session delegates met in small groups, and wrote on large sheets of paper about “rights and responsibilities” using descriptors including: “accountability”, “cooperation”, “agreements”, linking “human rights” and “Earth rights. Taking turns, they wrote, “democratize”, “humanise”, “values versus money”, and in large bold letters “stake holder participation on a planetary scale”. Other delegates focused on: “living within means” with “specific goals for resource consumption”. At other tables they wrote: “encourage participation”, and of the importance of “bringing in individuals, not just governments”. “Equity” was a recurring theme. One delegate wrote “the market has no morals”. Another wrote: “capitalism and globalisation rely on rich v poor so need different system to allow equity and balance”. Questions were also asked: “How can we use what we know? Combine? Make sure we are not constrained by the past?” And, “How do we measure the progress of a country, by the government or the people?”