FROM ONE EARTH TO ONE WORLD.
Another key to sustainable development is the realization that we are all citizens of one earth, dependent on common resources and on one another. In particular, the pollution of the atmosphere and the oceans, our most precious shared resources, has made people begin to see the world as one. There is no longer any place to send wastes away, into the oceans, the atmosphere, or to other countries. We will eventually get it back again. And we can no longer isolate ourselves from the problems of people in distant parts of the world, for their actions affect our shared resources and therefore our own future.
Pollution does not respect political boundaries, and we must now recognize that even small local events can have global consequences. A tree felled in one part of the earth, an automobile started, a refrigerator thrown on the garbage pile, a ship’s tanks dumped into the bay, human error at a nuclear reactor: all of these events are no longer each country’s and each person’s “own business” but have become everybody’s business. Out of a common concern for our shared resources on the earth emerge a common responsibility and a new commitment to cooperate internationally as a global community. This is the meaning of the saying “from one earth to one world”.
Ecology is defined as the study of interactions in nature at all levels, from an individual plant or animal up to the ecosystem. Ecology gives an understanding of nature’s structure and function, changes over time, and reaction to and recovery from various kinds of disturbances. In Europe, more attention has been given to identification and description of organisms and ecosystems (natural history) than to ecological dynamics (production and decomposition; food chains and energy flow; nutrient cycling; population growth and regulation; soil ecology; succession; evolution; and so on). Natural history is an
important element of ecology, but it is not sufficient to give an understanding, even in general terms, of the impact of humans on nature and what comprises good ecological management. Knowledge of the ecological interactions and dynamics mentioned above is needed.
Ecology is not synonymous with environmental science, environmental management or environmental education. Ecology; is usually treated as a “pure” natural science discipline and does not include questions of economics, politics, behaviour, ethics, or culture (even though these are the forces steering most ecosystems). Ecology could therefore be taught as a part of a biology or natural sciences curriculum.
PROTECTION OF SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEMS.
Every year several hundred to several thousand plant and animal species become extinct, most of these in connection with tropical deforestation. Loss of forest cover is itself a major ecological problem because forests play a crucial role in regulating water cycles, local climate, and the balance of CO2 in the atmosphere. The genetic resources lost by extinction have both an economic value for medicine and agriculture and an ecological value because they increase diversity in ecosystems and are the basis for future evolution. We face difficult ethical questions about other species right to exist and the subjugation of nature as a basic tenet of industrial society.
Europe also has its share of endangered species and ecosystems, such as the wolf, certain birds of prey, virgin coniferous forest and various species of fish and marine mammals.