New Netflix documentary brings the planetary boundaries to the world

Film follows the scientific discovery of the nine planetary boundaries

Story highlights

  • The film is narrated by Sir David Attenborough
  • In 2020, 160 million Netflix households tuned in to at least one film or show that explored sustainability
  • A book also called “Breaking Boundaries: the Science of Our Planet”, and with a foreword by Greta Thunberg, accompany the documentary

THE STORY OF OUR LIVES: Netflix has announced a new feature documentary, Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Stockholm Resilience Centre co-founder Johan Rockström and centre media strategist Owen Gaffney are both associate producers of the film which will be launched on Netflix during the summer of 2021.

The 75-minute production follows the scientific journey of Johan Rockström and his team's discovery of the nine planetary boundaries we must stay within, not just for the stability of our planet, but for the future of humanity.

The research underpinning the planetary boundaries was led by Rockström and a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists, and first published in 2009.

The framework is based on scientific evidence that human actions since the Industrial Revolution have become the main driver of global environmental change. The researchers wanted to define a "safe operating space for humanity" for the international community.

Since then it has generated enormous interest within science, policy, and practice.

Watch video with Johan Rockström providing his story on the Netflix documentary and why it is important:


"Most important documentary ever"

The ten-minute trailer available at the top of this news article was previewed at the Biden Climate Summit in April 2021.

“US climate envoy John Kerry had heard about the film. When he saw it, he wanted to find a place for it in the summit programme,” says Owen Gaffney.

Netflix has 204 million subscribers worldwide and the documentary will be available in every home. In 2020, 160 million Netflix households tuned in to at least one film or show that explored sustainability. It has already had strong endorsement from Christiana Figueres “probably the most important documentary that has ever been filmed”.

The key message from the film is that we still have time. It also outlines four priorities for action: cut greenhouse gases to zero, protect the wetlands, soils, forests and oceans that absorb our impacts, change our diets and the way we farm food and move to circular economies.

Sir David Attenborough is the greatest natural storyteller of our time. He has inspired multiple generations of people. With Netflix we hope to reach even more people to inspire them to become planetary stewards – protectors of our global commons.

Johan Rockström

Book and documentary

Rockström and Gaffney have also published a book to accompany the documentary.

Also called Breaking Boundaries: the Science of Our Planet, and with a foreword by Greta Thunberg, the book focuses on three themes: planetary awareness, planetary boundaries and planetary stewardship.

“The book makes the case that this is really a decisive decade for humanity. But four tipping points are converging that may lock in the fastest economic transformation in history: social movements, political action, falling prices of sustainable solutions and technological breakthroughs,” says Gaffney.

Podcast: Communicating the complex science behind the planetary boundaries

In this episode of Rethink Talks, Amanda Wood from the Stockholm Resilience Centre talks to Jon Clay, producer of the Breaking Boundaries documentary, and Owen Gaffney, head of international Media and Policy at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and co-author of the Breaking boundaries book. Together they discuss the next frontier in filmmaking and scientific communication.

Published: 2021-04-30

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