Delayed emergence of problems Delayed environmental impact of technological activities
There is increasing evidence for the existence of a class of problems which are only recognizable as significant long after the causative actions have been taken. Adverse effects become manifest long after an apparently beneficial activity has become well established. The social costs of activities decades earlier, largely in ignorance of their potential consequences, suddenly become a source of great anxiety, especially when the extent of the phenomena is as yet poorly understood and denied by certain groups of experts. The problem creates unpredictable levels of anxiety when some new initiative (possibly without negative side effects) can be argued to be potentially the source of some future problem, as in the case of the recently questioned introduction of artificial sweeteners into diet soft drinks.
Examples include: appearance of cancers from exposure to very low concentrations of carcinogenic materials long after the period of that exposure; asbestos, for which the latency period may extend over much of a human life span; the emergence of lung cancer as the consequence of smoking many years before; the spread of toxic wastes into groundwater; the emergence of resistant pesticides and pathogens following cumulative years of pesticide use; recognition of the implications of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
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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