Optimization means: to make the 'best' possible use of such resources as are available within a given constraint-set. This notion supports neo-classical economics in particular, and public-policy processes generally. From an environmental viewpoint, however, the critical result of this goal of optimization is that we tend to view unused resources as a waste, and, to make up for this, expand use to the limit. Even our notions of carrying capacity are expressed as "maximum sustainable yield". Little is exempt from optimization when it is driven by the current economic framework: if something, such as 'natural beauty', has no monetary value, it becomes difficult to protect from the impacts of commercial consumption and the ravages of human greed.
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.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.