6. Caring for the earth - a strategy for sustainable living.
Publ. of IUCN/UNEP/WWF, Gland, Switzerland; ISBN 2-8317-007-4; 1991, pp. 185 + annexes
The Earth has its limits; with the best technology imaginable, they are not infinitely expandable. To live within those limits and see that those who now have least can soon get more, two things will need to be done: population growth must stop everywhere, and the rich must stabilize, and in some cases reduce, their consumption of resources.
The unprecedented increase in human numbers and activity has had major impacts on the environment.
The capacity of the Earth to support human and other life has been significantly diminished. In less than 200 years the planet has lost six million square kilometres of forest; the sediment load from soil erosion has risen three-fold in major river basins and by eight times in smaller, more intensively used ones; water withdrawals have grown from 100 to 3600 cubic kilometres a year.
Atmospheric systems have been disturbed, threatening the climate regime to which we and other forms of life have long been adapted. Since the mid-eighteenth century, human activities have more than doubled the methane in the atmosphere; increased the concentration of carbon dioxide by 27%; and significantly damaged the stratospheric ozone layer.
The strategy in this book deals with a kind of development that provides real improvements in the quality of human life and at the same time conserves the vitality and diversity of the Earth. The goal is development that meets these needs in a sustainable way. Today it may seem visionary, but it is attainable. To more and more people it also appears the only rational option.
Most current development fails because it meets human needs incompletely and often destroys or degrades its resource base.
This book has three parts and comprises 17 chapters. While linkages are indicated by a system of cross references, it is an imperfect system and it would be useful to read preferably the whole text.
'Caring for the Earth' sets out a broad and explicit world strategy for the changes needed to build a sustainable society.
Any strategy has to be a guide rather than a prescription.
The principles and actions in the strategy are described in broad terms.
They are meant to be interpreted and adapted by each community. The world needs a variety of sustainable societies, achieved by many different ways.
'Caring for the Earth' is intended to be used by those who shape policy and make decisions that affect the course of development and the condition of the environment.
Sustainable living must be the new pattern for all levels: individuals, communities, nations and the world. To adopt the new pattern will require a significant change in the attitudes and practices of many people.
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