In the rural setting a mud hut provides shelter in the larger environment; in the urban village a dwelling unit is more than shelter, it becomes the larger environment itself. The present construction of wood, mud and tin houses in suburban third world communities is socially depressing to the residents. Due to the limited amount of capital available and the high cost of building materials, landowners have built high density units with little regard for their effect on the community. Alternative housing construction seems almost inconceivable to them. In many communities the rapid influx of people has been met with a rapid expansion of such poor quality housing units. The resulting unsanitary, crowded conditions form a settlement pattern that reduces residents' initiative and motivation, since such housing not only poses a threat to the general physical health of the community but promotes a constant drain on peoples' spirits. In the case of traditional dwellings and settlements it is frequently their sacred character which is essential in that they form a humanized safe space in a profane and potentially dangerous environment. They become humanized by imposing an order using rituals, and sacred orientations and frequently, by becoming cosmological symbols. The loss of this aspect of housing and settlement patterns disrelates people from their own psychological and spiritual roots. Housing could and should be improved, not to measure up to any outside standards but to release the community's energy.
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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