Decreasing primary material flows Reducing man-made material flows
Of the billions of tonnes of raw materials displaced by human activity -- including fossil fuels, water, sand, gravel and rocks -- a substantial percentage is returned to the environment in a chemically degraded and/or mobilized form within a few weeks or months. Only a fraction (consisting largely of structural materials) is preserved in useful form for more than a year or two. The massive material translocations, including the emissions of toxic materials and greenhouse gases, are beginning to be reflected in economic terms, such as sharply rising insurance premiums for natural catastrophies.
The industrialized world must progressively reduce its material and energy throughput. There is no fixed relationship or magic between the total value of economic activity and material throughput. With little effort it is possible that a reduction of a least 50% of energy and materials throughput could be achieved without any appreciable reduction in economic indicators or living standards; if policy incentives are matched with the changes in industrial organization and practice and societal change, then it would be conceivable to achieve the goal of maintaining present levels of well-being with one tenth of the material input.
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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