Conservation and Economic Efficiency: An Approach to Materials Policy

By Talbot Page; African Diaspora Studies Institute | Go to book overview

Foreword

ONE OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES that mankind currently faces, and will continue to face during the next several decades, is to provide and maintain a reasonably high material standard of living for all and at the same time provide and maintain a decent natural environment within which humans can enjoy their varied and many activities. Debate continues on whether or not it will be possible to achieve, and then to maintain, specified levels of material well-being. The concern generally expressed involves the continual erosion of a finite natural resource base and whether or not technological improvements can keep pace with the rapidly increasing demands for goods and services. But this concern does not represent the whole story. A spectrum of other related problems confronts our technologically oriented society as well. An increasingly important set involves the detrimental side effects of the production technology used to win increasing outputs from both renewable and nonrenewable natural resources. These by-products range from despoiled landscapes and pollution to toxic materials in the environment. Although some are limited in scope to degraded recreational and aesthetic attributes of the environment, others are more global in character and may even threaten those natural systems that are essential for the support of life. The latter, more severe, impacts appear to be associated with some of the newer technologies. Material well-being and the quality of the natural environment are integrally related, and policies established to address one will ultimately have an impact on the other. Clearly, the provision of goods and services and the uses and quality of the natural environment must be considered as a whole, and tradeoffs between them will be necessary. These complex interrelationships by themselves would be sufficient to confuse and concern our modern society, yet there is still

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