Life Duty Death

Howard Johnson Howard at iti.com
Sat Sep 23 16:01:55 EST 1995


Susan Whitham <gimila at tartarus.uwa.edu.au> wrote:
> ...does anyone out there have a copy/information about the 
> petition of leading scientists concerning the environmental impact
> on the human race on the planet....a huge number of world's top 
> scientists signed (from about 3 or 4 years back now) including many
> Nobel Prize Laureates (sp?)


Subject: Nat. Academy of Sci. paper

KZPG Abstract:
  Attached is the entire statement on population, consumption, and
  sustainability jointly drafted by the Royal Society of London and
  the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.  (About vintage 1992).

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   Population Growth, Resource Consumption, and a Sustainable World

                        A joint statement by
           the officers of the Royal Society of London and
                the U.S. National Academy of Sciences

[Preface letter:]
  World population is growing at the unprecedented rate of almost 100
  million people every year, and human activities are producing major
  changes in the global environment.  If current predictions of
  population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity on
  the planet remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able
  to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or
  continued poverty for much of the world.

  The following joint statement, prepared by the Officers of the Royal
  Society of London and the United States National Academy of
  Sciences, reflects the judgment of a group of scientists
  knowledgeable about the historic contributions of science and
  technology to economic growth and environmental protection.  It also
  reflects the shared view that sustainable development implies a
  future in which life is improved worldwide through economic
  development, where local environments and the biosphere are
  protected, and science is mobilized to create new opportunities for
  human progress.

  Through this statement, the two academies wish to draw attention to
  these issues and to simulate debate among scientists, decision
  makers, and the public.  In addition, the two institutions, in
  cooperation with other academies, propose to organize a scientific
  conference in early 1993 to explore these issues in detail.

  [Signed]                       [Signed]
  Sir Michael Atiyah             Dr. Frank Press
  President                      President
  The Royal Society of London    The U.S. National Academy of Sciences


[Statement:]

                           WORLD POPULATION

In its 1991 report on world population, the United Nations Population
Fund (UNFPA) states that population growth is even faster than
forecast in its report of 1984.  Assuming nevertheless that there will
in the future be substantial and sustained falls in fertility rates,
the global population is expected in the UN's mid-range projection to
rise from 5.4 billion in 1991 to 10 billion in 2050.  This rapid rise
may be unavoidable; considerably larger rises must be expected if
fertility rates do not stabilize at the replacement level of about 2.1
children per woman.  At present, about 95 percent of this growth is in
the less developed countries (LDCs); the percentage of global
population that live in the LDCs is projected to increase from 77
percent in 1990 to 84 percent in 2020.


                           THE ENVIRONMENT

Although there is a relationship between population, economic
activity, and the environment, it is not simple.  Most of the
environmental changes during the twentieth century have been a product
of the efforts of humans to secure improved standards of food,
clothing, shelter, comfort, and recreation.  Both developed and
developing countries have contributed to environmental degradation.
Developed countries, with 85 percent of the world's gross national
product and 23 percent of its population, account for the majority of
mineral and fossil-fuel consumption.  One issue alone, the increases
in atmospheric carbon dioxide, has the potential for altering global
climate with significant consequences for all countries.  The
prosperity and technology of the developed countries, however, give
them the greater possibilities and the greater responsibility for
addressing environmental problems.

In the developing countries the resource consumption per capita is
lower, but the rapidly growing population and the pressure to develop
their economies are leading to substantial and increasing damage to
the local environment.  This damage comes by direct pollution from
energy use and other industrial activities, as well as by activities
such as clearing forests and inappropriate agricultural practices.


                      THE REALITY OF THE PROBLEM

Scientific and technological innovations, such as in agriculture, have
been able to overcome many pessimistic predictions about resource
constraints affecting human welfare.  Nevertheless, the present
patterns of human activity accentuated by population growth should
make even those most optimistic about future scientific progress pause
and reconsider the wisdom of ignoring these threats to our planet.
Unrestrained resource consumption for energy production and other
uses, especially if the developing world strives to achieve living
standards based on the same levels of consumption as the developed
world, could lead to catastrophic outcomes for the global environment.

Some of the environmental changes may produce irreversible damage to
the earth's capacity to sustain life.  Many species have already
disappeared, and many more are destined to do so.  Man's own prospects
for achieving satisfactory living Standards are threatened by
environmental deterioration, especially in the poorest countries where
economic activities are most heavily dependent upon the quality of
natural resources.

If they are forced to deal with their environmental and resource
problems alone, the LDCs face overwhelming challenges.  They generate
only 15 percent of the worlds's GNP, and have a net cash outflow of
tens of billions of dollars per year.  Over 1 billion people live in
absolute poverty, and 600 million on the margin of starvation.  And
the LDCs have only 6-7 percent of the world's active scientists and
engineers, a situation that makes it very difficult for them to
participate fully in global or regional schemes to manage their own
environment.

In places where resources are administered effectively, population
growth does not inevitably imply deterioration in the quality of the
environment.  Nevertheless, each additional human being requires
natural resources for sustenance, each produces by-products that
become part of the ecosystem, and each pursues economic and other
activities that affect the natural world.  While the impact of
population growth varies from place to place and from one
environmental domain to another, the overall pace of environmental
changes had unquestionably been accelerated by the recent expansion of
the human population.


                         INTERNATIONAL ACTION

There is an urgent need to address economic activity, population
growth, and environmental protection as interrelated issues.  The
forthcoming UN conference on Environment and Development, to be held
in Brazil, should consider human activities and population growth, in
both the developing and developed worlds, as crucial components
affecting the sustainability of human society.  Effective family
planning, combined with continued economic and social development in
the LDCs, will help stabilize fertility rates at lower levels and
reduce stresses to the global environment.  At the same time, greater
attention in the developed countries to conservation, recycling,
substitution and efficient use of energy, and a concerted program to
start mitigating further buildup of greenhouse gasses will help to
ease the threat to the global environment.

Unlike many other steps that could be taken to reduce the rate of
environmental changes, reductions in rates of population growth can be
accomplished through voluntary measures.  Surveys in the developing
world repeatedly reveal large amounts of unwanted childbearing.  By
providing people with the means to control their own fertility, family
planning programs have major possibilities to reduce rates of
population growth and hence to arrest environmental degradation.
Also, unlike many other potential interventions that are typically
specific to a particular problem, a reduction in the rate of
population growth would affect many dimensions of environmental
changes.  Its importance is easily underestimated if attention is
focused on one problem at a time.


                     THE CONTRIBUTION OF SCIENCE

What are the relevant topics to which scientific research can make
mitigating contributions?  These include: development of new
generations of safe, easy to use, and effective contraceptive agents
and devices; development of environmentally benign alternative energy
sources; improvements in agricultural production and food processing;
further research in plant and animal genetic varieties; further
research in biotechnology relating to plants, animals, and
preservation of the environment; improvements in public health,
especially through development of effective drugs and vaccines for
malaria, hepatitis, AIDS, and other infectious diseases causing
immense human burdens.  Also needed is research on topics such as:
improved land-use practices to prevent ecological degradation, loss of
topsoil, and desertification of grasslands; better institutional
measures to protect watersheds and groundwater; new technologies for
waste disposal, environmental remediation, and pollution control; new
materials that reduce pollution and the use of hazardous substances
during their life cycle; and more effective regulatory tools that use
market forces to protect the environment.

Greater attention also needs to be given to understanding the nature
and dimension of the word's biodiversity.  Although we depend directly
on biodiversity for sustainable productivity, we cannot even estimate
the numbers of species or organisms -- plants, animals, fungi, and
microorganisms -- to an order of magnitude.  We do know, however, that
the current rate of reduction in biodiversity is unparalleled over the
past 65 million years.  The loss of biodiversity is one of the fastest
moving aspects of global change, is irreversible, and has serious
consequences for the human prospect in the future.

What are the limits of scientific contributions to the solution of
resource and environmental problems?  Scientific research and
technological innovation can undoubtedly mitigate these stresses and
facilitate a less destructive adaptation of a growing population to
its environment.  Yet, it is not prudent to rely on science and
technology alone to solve problems created by rapid population growth,
wasteful resource consumption, and harmful human practices.


                             CONCLUSIONS

The application of science and technology to global problems is a key
component of providing a decent standard of living for a majority of
the human race.  Science and technology have an especially important
role to play in developing countries in helping them to manage their
resources effectively and to participate fully in worldwide
initiatives for common benefit.  Capabilities in science and
technology must be strengthened in LDCs as a matter of urgency through
joint initiatives from the developed and developing worlds.  But
science and technology alone are not enough.  Global policies are
urgently needed to promote more rapid economic development throughout
the world, more environmentally benign patterns of human activity, and
a more rapid stabilization of world population.

The future of our planet is in the balance.  Sustainable development
can be achieved, but only if irreversible degradation of the
environment can be halted in time.  The next 30 years may be crucial.


--- About the organizations -----------------------------------------

The U.S. NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES is a private, nonprofit,
  self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in
  scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of
  science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.
  Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in
  1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the
  federal government on scientific and technical matters.  The
  officers [at the time this document was drafted were]:

    Dr. Frank Press, President
    Dr. James D. Ebert, Vice President
    Dr. Peter H. Raven, Home Secretary
    Dr. James B. Wyngaarden, Foreign Secretary
    Dr. Elkan R. Blout, Treasure

The ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON is an independent learned society,
  self-governing under a Royal Charter, for the promotion of the
  natural sciences, including mathematics and all applied aspects such
  as engineering and medicine.  It encourages both national and
  international activities in a similar way to the national academies
  overseas.  Its objectives are: to encourage scientific research and
  its application; to recognize excellence in scientific research; to
  promote international scientific relations and facilitate the
  exchange of scientists; to provide independent advice on scientific
  matters, notably to governments; to represent and support the
  scientific community; to promote science education as well as
  science understanding and awareness in the public at large; to
  support research into the history of scientific endeavor.  The
  officers of the Royal Society [at the time this document was drafted
  were]:

    Sir Michael Atiyah, President
    Sir Robert Honeycombe, Treasure
    Professor B. K. Follett, Biological Secretary
    Sir Francis Graham-Smith, Physical Secretary
    Dr. Anne Laura McLaren, Foreign Secretary


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