Real World LearningReal

Science Outside the Classroom

Through exploring the science that we need to understand in order to support a sustainable planet, we have used existing research on Planetary Boundaries by the Stockholm Environment Institute to frame our work. The Planetary Boundaries show the resilience of nine environmental areas, and measure whether they are currently within the planet’s capacity to sustain them. For example, biodiversity is listed as beyond the safe operating capacity, while global freshwater use remains within the safe operating capacity (see for more).

Planetary Boundaries offer a useful approach to deciding what science needs to be understood to support a sustainable planet. But herein lies the danger of just using a reductionist-based science; we try to understand the details of each boundary rather than the overall patterns and processes which link them together. And we are led down the path of individual scientific solutions to global issues, rather than approaches which address social and economic issues as well as environmental ones.

To help educators get a better understanding of the content that learners need to understand, we have developed the mind-maps below for each of the planetary boundaries. These can be used to see the links between bits of knowledge and link that knowledge to the bigger picture.

Explore the mind-maps below, one overview of the Planetary Boundaries and then one for each of the nine areas. Each mind-map shows the causes and effects related to each issue; additionally we have presented some key facts and definitions. There is a blank 'arm' for each mind-map for you to add your own solutions based on your own activities.

Planetary Boundaries

Aerosol Loading


Biogeochemical Loading of Nitrogen and Phosphorous

Chemical Loading

Climate Change


Land System Change

Ocean Acidification

Ozone Depletion