The values which previously sustained people have to be applied in new ways in the reality of the present-day technological, urban world. Although the people of some communities continue to honour widely recognized values of the past, the application of past values to the actual situations in other communities may be felt inappropriate by many residents. Widespread attachment to the land, for example, seems out of place when agricultural enterprise requires more acreage and fewer people than ever before, and when a large farm that once supported 20 families now needs only five individuals to operate and maintain its advanced agricultural machinery. The traditional expectation that a family should care for its own home and grounds is complicated in rural communities by the fact that much available housing is dilapidated far beyond what even the most skilled home handyman could repair alone. Further, there is no way to deal with community sewage, public areas, or zoning ordinances on an individual family basis. The traditional qualities of warmth and graciousness, which work well when relationships are close and personal, seem to have nearly disappeared in the realities of today's job market, an arena in which they are greatly needed: some people cite discriminatory hiring practices, while others speak of insolence in everyday encounters. All this indicates that traditional values are not being applied, or are being applied inappropriately, to an unprecedented community milieu.
Social structures have changed dramatically and often painfully during the past 40 years. Only when a community finds ways of applying its traditional values in ways appropriate to its new situation will it demonstrate that it is seriously committed to a new future.
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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