The challenge of accounting for our impact on the Earth System has been addressed in the last three decades by an intensive social and scientific search for concepts, regulations, methodologies and techniques. Such search has been based on indicators, which helped us improve our understanding of the state of the planet. We live in a technological era: we have never had so many information systems, so much knowledge, so many and strong legal protections, international environmental agreements and yet evidence suggests that we have never damaged the planet so much. Setting sustainability targets requires the identification of minimum thresholds – beyond which human impact on the Earth system is unsustainable – and the adoption of a systemic approach reflecting the complex interactions that characterize the Earth and the human systems.
In this chapter we discuss the need for building an integrated assessment framework to assess human pressure on the Earth System and its implications. Building on the existing literature, we propose a set of principles to guide the integration of a new assessment framework into a new legal order thus creating a system of incentives to approach, preserve and/or restore our common intangible heritage.