Earth Crisis Blinkers

5 min readJun 7, 2022

I’ve been thinking for a while about creating a tool for using in workshops that helps people think about the relationships between causes, impacts and solutions of the Earth crisis. It will be something hands-on, a working canvas to print out and cover with post-its.

Last week I saw the graphic by Jan Koniezko about his idea of Carbon Tunnel Vision. It asks: If we achieve net-zero emissions yet overlook human rights, or fail to safeguard biodiversity, what will this mean for the wellbeing of people and planet?

It resonates a lot with me, as I’ve been frustrated by events & debates that either:

  • focus on the Climate Emergency, limiting the conversation to CO2 emissions and domestic or organisational contributions to global mitigation OR
  • use the term ‘Climate Change’ or similar when the debate ranges across other Earth Crisis factors such as biodiversity loss or air pollution. Climate Change is used as a ‘synecdoche’ or cover-all term for a wider systemic problem.

However, I found the factors around the Konietzko dial a little scarce, or unclear. I tried to combine my thinking about the nested systems to show Earth Crisis Blinkers — i.e. to name the Earth Crisis and show it in more detail, rather than to draw so much attention to the Carbon Tunnel Vision.

Blinkers, or blinders, are the eye guards put on working horses or mules so that they don’t get distracted and can focus on the way they are supposed to go. Blinkers is therefore a term that suggests how discourses guide and limit our vision, to keep us fixed on our role in maintaining the current system.

This is my version:

My version uses the terms and ordering of the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s Planetary Boundaries (the orange zone, that I’ve shortened to Earth boundaries). This presents a quantitative set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Several are significantly breached beyond the safe operating space, including Climate Change. Ocean acidification, linked to both climate change and biogeochemical flows, is close to breach.

Image credit: Stockholm Resilience Centre, 2023

In my Blinkers diagram I’ve also added distinct zones:

  • The Solution space in the centre — in the blue ring
  • The Earth boundaries space outside that — in the orange ring
  • The Impacts on Lives space outside that — in the green ring

What’s missing from my diagram is a defined space to name the original causes — separation from nature, extraction, overconsumption and so on. But they are implied in some of the breached planetary boundaries (e.g. land system change) and in some of the solutions.

In removing the blinkers and looking harder at the whole system, we need to see these factors in a less linear way. Some of the factors are highly significant levers for biocentric and just system change — such as indigenous power & racial justice. Nature-based solutions on their own, without this, will just be hijacked for profit by corporations.

Another way I’ve attempted to communicate the crisis is in terms of time, in the following simplistic framing:

A note on why I use the term ‘Earth crisis’:

More frequently now we’re hearing of the ‘polycrisis’, ‘metacrisis’, ‘permacrisis’ or ‘omnicrisis’, all of which feel inaccessible to me. The Earth crisis is more graspable and earthy, although some read it as an eco-themed pigeonhole alongside many other issues in the ‘polycrisis’. However, the pigeonholing of Earth issues is a symptom of fundamental nature disconnection. I don’t believe there is any significant global issue — war, displacement, disease, gross inequalities — that is not rooted in the violent and extractive relationship, wrought by powerful and patriarchal profiteers, with the living fabric and bodies of our existence. This leads to the exploitation and racist othering of nature-connected people, of animals, and the catastrophic disruption of life-sustaining systems such as the climate.

When I talk about the Earth crisis, I’m trying to draw attention to the systems causing the harm and to the big levers we can pull to solve several problems at once. The indirect violence of climate disruption intersects with more direct forms of ecological and human injustice such as land-grabbing and intensive livestock farming.

In harmful systems such as food, transport, fashion, energy or housing, people are exploited (often invisibly, while others benefit from cheap goods) and diseased. These systems intersect in places, in nested ways from hyperlocal to global, and each system causes intersecting harms from direct or immediate harm through to the longer-term and indirect harms which have knock-on and unpredictable effects. War and conflict result from and perpetuate this degenerative meta-system. It is the inevitable outcome of resource-intensive territorialism rather than community stewardship of bioregional ecosystems. The upshot is the fundamental destabilisation of the ecological systems — including human cooperation — that we depend upon to live and work in safety.

After reading this you might feel deflated and ask ‘what can I do?’ See the People Take Action framework which offers pathways for expanding people’s pathways for action, after removing the blinkers.




Director of Flow & Climate Museum UK. Co-founder Culture Declares. Cultural researcher, artist-curator, educator.