Magazine article The Futurist

The Earth Summit

Magazine article The Futurist

The Earth Summit

Article excerpt

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), to be held in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, represents "mankind's last best hope," in the words of its secretary-general, Maurice Strong. But can it provide real hope for solving the morass of environmental problems that threaten our very existence, or will it be another well-intentioned exercise in futility?

To fulfill its promise, UNCED cannot be merely an event, but must be a process that begins now. It is an historic call to humanity that we must become stewards of the earth and all its inhabitants. Despite our seeming dominion over the planet, we must accept that we are ultimately dependent on the millions of other species sharing our home.

We can no longer wait until all the evidence is in before changing our ways. UNCED is an opportunity to engage in the hard tasks of educating ourselves about the crises we face and then taking up the necessary actions globally, regionally, and locally. Environmental problems do not respect national boundaries, so these actions must be unified, and they must be based on a charter which demands the population be controlled, particularly in poorer countries. In addition, the Arctic, Antarctica, and the primeval forests of the world should be declared sacred regions and thus protected from any human encroachment.

A Future "United Regions"?

We are learning from the example of an emerging united Europe that we need to move toward regional environmental and development plans based on sustainable resource use. Such regional plans could form the basis for a United Regions (replacing the United Nations) by 2025, leading to a world government by 2050. This implies, now that superpower conflicts have come to an end, a sharp reduction in military budgets around the world.

Many environmental problems are byproducts of fossil-fuel consumption, so we must speed the development of alternative energy sources such as biomass, solar, wind, ocean, and thermal energies. But we must also move toward simpler lifestyles so that we do not need to consume such vast amounts of energy to enjoy a good life. We should strive not to produce ever higher quantities of material goods, but to provide a high quality of life to all the people of the earth.

Water quality is a special concern. …

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