Desertion of the aged, the sick, the deformed or crippled, the helpless, or of infants and children by parents, family groups, or communities is a time-rooted practice among many peoples. Technically, abandonment refers to the desertion of the aged and helpless, while the abandonment of infants left to perish is termed exposure. The basic causes of abandonment have always been economic, that is, the lack of food or the uselessness of the aged or handicapped to the group.
The growth of foundling homes in China, France, Cuba and other parts of the civilized world show that today most infants are abandoned in the hopes they will be picked up; leaving children in railway stations or railway station lockers still occurs. Some South African tribes take their old people into the wilderness and leave them in a small enclosure with a little food and water; Melanesians either burn or bury alive their elderly.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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