Scientists and World Order: The Uses of Technical Knowledge in International Organizations

By Ernst B. Haas; Mary Pat Williams | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Science and Technology for Environmental Management

The earth is a spaceship. We should have known this for the past two thousand years, and in a sense we have--in a coldly intellectual sense, as a mere fact of physics, the human implications of which almost completely eluded us. Before we can make "decisions for survival" wisely we must see these implications clearly. We must feel in our bones the inescapable truth that we live on a spaceship. From now on no major political decisions can safely be made without taking into consideration this basic fact.1

Environmental management, as a concept of political action, is the totality of knowledge which goes into understanding the causative mechanisms of the degradation of nature and the measures to be taken to halt this degradation. Because of the complexity of the physical chains of causation among the agents and organisms involved, the informing image underlying management is the notion of the ecosystem: The measures of control and rectification must be as complex and interconnected as the whole to be safeguarded.

And that is the trouble. Pollution controls affect costs of production. Shifting to new sources of energy interferes with world trade, payments, investments, employment, consumer demand. Conservation of natural resources implies rescheduling of production, exports, and imports. Recycling may benefit the industrialized countries, but it reduces the earning capacity of the poorer nations. What is good for one passenger on spaceship earth may be very bad for another. What do we manage? Resource use in industrial countries only? Global exploitation of resources, and therefore trade, investment, and technological innovation? A better quality of life in terms of clean air and water? Or do we give a more extended meaning to that popular term and equate it with the eradication of poverty?

"Eco-development" is the new slogan under which total environmental management is to unfold. In the words of Maurice Strong, eco-development aims at respecting both the "inner" and the "outer" limits of the environment. The "inner" limits are the basic needs of good health and minimum welfare of all

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