Economy, Environment, And Society
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Economy and Our Environment

Up to one fourth of all the species of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms are likely to disappear forever over the next few decades. In addition, most scientists who have analyzed the problem have concluded that the Earth's temperature is already climbing steadily because of the' progressive increase in carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, and CFCs in the atmosphere.

The concentration of ozone in the upper atmosphere has apparently fallen sufficiently to account for already at least a 20 percent increase in the incidence of skin cancer at middle latitudes, and the problem continues to worsen. Our topsoil is beng lost and our waters polluted at unprecedented rates.

For one out of three people in the developing world, the only water available to drink is unsafe and possibly deadly. Meanwhile, we are rapidly destroying what is left of our forests, and deserts are spreading in many regions.

Those of us who live in industrialized countries are the core of the problems facing the global ecosystem today. Industrialized peoples number less than one quarter of the world's people, and their activities alone are more than sufficient to create global instability.

For example, the United States, with 4.5 percent of the world's population, generates about 21 percent of the world's carbon dioxide. Similar relationships can be demonstrated in almost any area of resource consumption, indicating clearly that the industrialized countries of the world must act forcefully to reduce their levels of consumption if we are all going to be able to attain stability.

The Economy and Society

Shifts in technology, transportation, and communications are creating a world that refuses to slow down. In today's world, anything can be made anywhere on the face of the earth and sold everywhere else on the face of the earth. A substantial difference exists between global business firms with a worldview and national governments that focus on the welfare of "their" voters.

With these shifts, the world's population is growing, moving, and getting older. There are two types of populations emerging. There are those in poorer countries who are moving from their homelands to richer countries just when unskilled labor is not needed in the wealthy industrial world.

In the rich countries, there is a very large group of elderly, relatively affluent people who are dependent upon government social welfare payments for much of their income.

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, approximately in 1800, only 3 percent of the world's people were living in cities; fully 97 percent were rural, living on farms or in small towns. In the two centuries since then, population distribution has changed radically- toward the cities.

More people will live in Mexico City by the end of the 1990s than were living in all the cities of the world combined 200 years earlier. This is a staggering difference in the way people live. Almost half of the world population is in cities now, with a very high proportion of the people who are being added to the population also being city dwellers.

In the less developed world, this tends to lead to increasing exploitation of those who live in rural areas and produce the food, wood, and other commodities on which the city dwellers depend. Even in industrialized countries such as the United States, urbanization tends to make us collectively less able to understand and appreciate biological productivity, on which our common future depends. The great majority of all world population growth over the next few decades will take place in the cities, with all of the problems that implies.


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