The rapidly changing state of the world makes planning in the face of complex interconnected problems a formidable challenge. Our ability to conceive adequate solutions and strategies is often undermined by our lack of understanding of the nature of problems in their wider context. The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential offers a radically different perspective to associations, policy-makers, social researchers and those concerned with development strategy. By clarifying the ways in which problems reinforce and sustain each other, the Encyclopedia shifts the level of attention from isolated problems to problem cycles, and thus to sustainable strategy cycles. This allows for a more holistic understanding of the environment in which global problems and strategies are situated.
Pesticides are an example of contaminants deliberately introduced into the environment that have played a significant role in the decline of species and the loss of habitat diversity. They interfere with and cause the breakdown of fundamental biogeochemical processes that support life support systems, including decomposition, mineral oxidation, nitrogen fixation and photosynthesis.
Pesticides are chemical compounds used to control plants and animals that are classified as pests. They are most widely used on crops, but they are also used in and around the home on insects, rodents, weeds, and plant diseases; in wood processing and preserving; in paint; in food storage; and in public health programmes. Insect and weed control are the two most common uses. Some pesticides are applied directly to plants or soil. Soon after application, they are dispersed into the environment, so that applications are often repeated. As the pesticides accumulate in the soil and wash into streams and rivers, they can affect fish and birds. Because of the wide spectrum of life forms which they attack, some call these pesticides biocides.
Because of the toxicity of pesticides in concentrated form and because of the frequency of exposure, the most serious human health effects are found among agricultural and production workers. Long-term and chronic health effects occur as the chemicals are ingested and inhaled. Bioaccumulation (the buildup of toxic materials in tissues) is evident in fish and birds as well as in humans.
Two different sets of problems are posed by the occurrence of persistent pesticides in the environment: (1) localized problems, tending to be acute, leading to recognizable effects with assignable origins, which can be dealt with if successfully sorted out and if the will and powers exist; and (2) more widespread problems, tending to be inferential with postulated effects, due to the universal presence of the materials in question. There is, for example, growing evidence from the amount of pesticide residues found in specimens of affected species as well as in the animals, fish, invertebrates, or plankton they feed upon, that there is a process of pesticide concentration in the food chains. As small amounts of persistent pesticides become more and more widely spread throughout the entire natural environment, they are absorbed by low forms of life. Where large numbers of these species serve as food for higher animals, some of the total pesticide remains in the eater. This can lead to a certain concentration of pesticides in a form of life at the end of the food chain. Eventually lethal doses may be reached for certain populations, or the species may be reduced because of adverse effects on reproduction or behaviour.
The importance of changes in the environment is that they may be irreversible: species may disappear altogether. This will cause ecological imbalance - certain forms of life whose numbers are controlled by the disappearing species will no longer be held in check. Thus an apparently harmless species may become a pest. Another result of reduction of species diversity may be the loss of the genetic possibilities that each organism disturbance of the selective pressures of the environment will reduce the chances of future development of desired plants and animals. Furthermore, as humans are at the top of food chains, they too tend to concentrate residues in their bodies with as yet unknown effects on them. While perhaps sufficient attention has been directed to acute toxicity problems, too little attention has been paid to the effect of long term ingestion by human beings of small amounts of these chemicals.
A serious dilemma is that the cheapest pesticides are the organochlorines, known to accumulate in human fat. The substitution of organophosphorus pesticides brings both higher cost and a need for more carefully trained operators, both of which pose problems.
Mental illnesses are characterized by disorders of the psyche, or mind. The view of objective reality is impaired, as are also the patient's self-correctness, his attitudes towards others and his behaviour. Some mental diseases are the result of primary affection of the brain, followed by a disturbance of the body as a whole. Others are caused by diseases of particular organs, with secondary disturbance of mental functions. They may be manifested in a variety of disorders: false sensory impressions, disturbances in thinking or mood, disturbances of consciousness and memory, and intellectual decline. Three types of mental illness are delineated; the psychoses (including schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis) constituting the most important group. The second group are nervous and mental disorders, including neuroses, psychopathies, and other nonpsychotic diseases. The third category is mental retardation.
The course of mental disease varies from single or rare attacks with complete remission, to severe, chronic psychoses with gross disorganization of mental activity and deterioration into feeblemindedness.
Significant mental disorder is clinically defined as a significant behavioural or psychological dysfunction that is associated with (a) present distress (a painful symptom) or (b) disability or impairment of functioning or (c) with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability or an important loss of freedom. Another definition of mental illness is a non-organic, social-psychological disorder in which the individual is unable to protect his ego or social self sufficiently to participate in ordinary social life and obtain at least a minimal degree of social and psychological rewards.
The variety of natural life forms, whether eco-regions, habitats, species or gene pools, is being endangered by human activity. This biodiversity ensures the regeneration of harvested resources and the maintenance of ecological processes, whether as a vital part of world heritage or for its own sake. It also provides resources for the development and improvement of domesticated crops and livestock, for recreation and tourism, and for research and education.
At the broadest level, biodiversity loss is driven by economic systems and policies that fail to value properly the environment and its resources, legal and institutional systems that promote unsustainable exploitation, and inequity in ownership and access to natural resources, including the benefits from their use. While some species are under direct threat, for example from hunting, poaching and illegal trade, the major threats come from changes in land use leading to the destruction, alteration or fragmentation of habitats.
Computers facilitate the theft of money and property and the destruction of data when there are inadequate controls against their misuse. Crimes perpetrated by unauthorized access to keyboards, terminals and communications devices generally can be described as thefts, misapplications of assets, or destruction of information. These terms may apply to the misappropriation of money and real property, or of proprietary information and intangible assets. The misuse of the computer may involve the forgery of computer signatures such as authorizing codes; the creation of false accounts payable to disburse cheques; improper use of personal information; the creation of "virus" or "rogue" programmes which interfere in software operations and destroy data. All of these crimes include programming the erasure of any evidence of the computer crime perpetrated. Probably the fastest growing category of computer related crime is that involving electronic fund transfer systems. The most significant types of computer crime were: arson, sabotage and malicious damage of computer installations; system penetration, or "hacking"; unauthorized use of computer time; thefts of assets, including software; embezzlement of funds; defrauding of consumers and investors; and destruction or alteration of data (including college transcripts and diplomas) and software. The motive is usually personal financial gain, anger or revenge but another significant impetus is 'the intellectual challenge' associated with computer crime.
The absence of, or inadequate provision for, documentation and access controls for computer installations, facilitates computer crime. Unauthorized access to software and hardware is almost exclusively the means of crime perpetration. With authorized access, but with criminal collusion, two or more persons may commit crimes unnoticed, until financial audits, inventories, and computer operation system checks uncover the fraud or misuse. In the case of theft of intangible properties such as computer-stored patents of engineering, chemical or other designs, processes, or marketing and strategic data, the crime is exposed, if at all, by inferences drawn from the activities, products or knowledge shown by competitors.
Throughout the world, the vast majority of humanity's agriculture is non-sustainable and in spite of the substantial increase in food production over the past few decades, the present model of agriculture has not solved the world's hunger problem. In fact, our industrial, chemical intensive agriculture system has many damaging impacts. It degrades the fertility of soils, intensifies the effects of droughts and contributes to desertification, pollutes water resources, causes salinization, increases dependence on non-renewable energy, contaminates the food supply, and contributes to harmful climatic change. The knowledge, manpower, and resources exist to combat these escalating conditions, but the world's political and economic communities stand lethargic.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a unique, experimental research work of the Union of International Associations. It is currently published as a searchable online platform with profiles of world problems, action strategies, and human values that are interlinked in novel and innovative ways. These connections are based on a range of relationships such as broader and narrower scope, aggravation, relatedness and more. By concentrating on these links and relationships, the Encyclopedia is uniquely positioned to bring focus to the complex and expansive sphere of global issues and their interconnected nature.
The initial content for the Encyclopedia was seeded from UIA’s Yearbook of International Organizations. UIA’s decades of collected data on the enormous variety of association life provided a broad initial perspective on the myriad problems of humanity. Recognizing that international associations are generally confronting world problems and developing action strategies based on particular values, the initial content was based on the descriptions, aims, titles and profiles of international associations.
The Union of International Associations (UIA) is a research institute and documentation centre, based in Brussels. It was established in 1907, by Henri la Fontaine (Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 1913), and Paul Otlet, a founding father of what is now called information science.
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.