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Updated December 2021

The review was performed in two steps (Table 1).


Step 1 was aimed to:

  • obtain a summarized synoptic diagnosis of the main impacts of humankind on biosphere, their main effects on biosphere, and main counter-effects of biosphere’s disintegration on humankind (see Biosphere diagnosis).

  • identify the main obstacles to achieve sustainability in a systematic way.


Step 2 was aimed to deeper analyze each one of the obstacles identified in the first step.


The review did not start from zero, but from forty years author’s experience on environmental work as researcher and consultant. A preliminary analysis of the newest global reports and websites on sustainability also provided further initial information, themes, and key-words to start the systematic searches. The diagnosis of the present situation of the biosphere and the identification of the main obstacles to sustainability were deducted through a multiple-loop process of search, initial analysis, preliminary conclusions, verification, contraposition, new improved searches and analyses, refined conclusions, confirmation. Several obstacles detected in a first loop were found to be particular aspects (sub-obstacles) of more general obstacles in a second or third loop. Some identified obstacles and sub-obstacles were previously identified by other authors (e.g., Obstacle 2: disregarding of the overpopulation issue) while others raised as issues that have received little attention or are omitted in the present discussion on sustainability by the scientific community (e.g., Obstacle 1: stress on model forecastings of potential future calamities).


Most systematic searches were made in English although searches in other languages (French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish) were also performed when the English search did not provide enough response. Google Scholar and Google Advanced Search were the most used search engines, and were also consulted. Zotero was used as the main bibliography-handling software.


The number of publications on sustainability is becoming huge. The present review quotes ca 80 selected documents, databases and websites, while Table 2 is based on ca 200 references. Many of the documents herein consulted are reviews on specific topics or strategic articles, thus the present review can be considered a meta-review.

Table 1. Schematic description of the two-steps four-sub-steps methodology

Table review methodology.JPG

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