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close this bookDiversity, Globalization, and the Ways of Nature (IDRC, 1995, 234 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentForeword
close this folder1. Introduction
View the documentGlobalization and the ways of nature
View the documentThe new globalization processes
close this folder2. Global trends and their effects on the environment
View the documentThe information revolution
View the documentDevelopment of global financial markets
View the documentDevelopment of more effective transportation networks
View the documentMovement of people
View the documentGlobalization and the unequal distribution of wealth
View the documentInternational migration
View the documentThe development of free markets
close this folder3. Planet-wide deterioration
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOur sister planet
View the documentThe unusual, oxygenated planet
View the documentThe paradox of ozone
View the documentOceans can be degraded too
View the documentThe rivers are becoming muddy
View the documentOvershooting
close this folder4. Forests under attack
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDeforestation in the 20th century
View the documentRain-forest environments
View the documentTemperate forests
close this folder5. Grasslands
View the documentSavannas
View the documentThe temperate grasslands
View the documentModifying grassland ecosystems
View the documentEnvironmental balance in grassland ecosystems
close this folder6. Aquatic ecosystems
View the documentExtractive exploitation
View the documentThe future of fish production
close this folder7. Managing planetary thirst
View the documentSome basic facts
View the documentWater supply and options
View the documentThe demand side of the issue
View the documentWater issues throughout the world
close this folder8. Protecting air quality
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAir and its principal contaminants
View the documentProcesses of contamination in industrial and urban areas
View the documentCurrent and future trends
close this folder9. Clean energy for planetary survival
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe industrial revolution
View the documentThe use of hydroelectricity
View the documentThe age of petroleum
View the documentNuclear power
View the documentThe clean options
close this folder10. Africa in the 21st Century: Sunrise or sunset?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe causes of poverty
View the documentHistorical causes of the current situation
View the documentWars are environmentally unfriendly
View the documentEvolution of environmental management in Africa
View the documentOld and new development models
close this folder11. Latin America and the Caribbean: A history of environmental degradation
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIndigenous cultures
View the documentThe colonial period
View the documentExploitation of natural resources after independence
View the documentEffects of globalization on the environment
View the documentThe maquiladora phenomenon
close this folder12. The urban environmental challenge
View the documentThe development of modern cities
View the documentLarge cities in the Third World
View the documentThe megacities of today
close this folder13. Diversity and human survival
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDocumenting diversity
View the documentResources for the future
View the documentDiversity of living systems
View the documentCauses and effects of the loss of natural diversity
View the documentDiversity and culture
View the documentRestoring what is lost
View the documentBiodiversity and research
close this folder14. Strategies for the future
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDecentralize decision-making
View the documentPeople value their environment
View the documentProblems and responsibilities are global
View the documentBibliography


In earlier chapters, we examined the widespread processes of environmental degradation that are taking place throughout the world and tried to understand their causes, past and present, as well as the effects that new trends will have on the environment in the years to come. The effects of human action have been profound and cumulative. Earth’s atmosphere is being modified, introducing uncertainties about potential consequences, which could be life threatening. Water is being contaminated on every continent, in coastal areas, and even in the open ocean. Simultaneously, the principal fish species are being exploited far beyond replacement levels, introducing profound disturbances in the main aquatic ecosystems. Elimination of vegetation is promoting widespread erosion, changes in hydrological regimes, and, frequently, floods and droughts in areas in which they were previously unknown. “Scars” that are often irreversible are being produced by mining operations, as well as by quarrying for building construction or engineering works such as highways or dams.

The combined effects of these processes are affecting many species of plants and animals, which are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in a changing environment to which they have not had time to adapt. As a result of human activity, the equilibrium of ecosystems is being altered and widespread modifications of their species compositions and interspecific relations are taking place. A main consequence of the deterioration of the physical and biological support of ecosystems is the general loss of biodiversity - both number of species and varieties.

Along with this biological impoverishment, social and economic standardization are rapidly reducing the richness of the world’s hundreds of cultures and resulting in the loss of a huge volume of knowledge about nature that has been accumulated over many generations. Macroeconomic trends are forcing local communities into high-productivity, monospecific agriculture or raising animals for commercial purposes, replacing the enormous range of traditional crop and animal varieties by a few that meet the conditions for short-term competitiveness imposed by globalized international markets.

In much the same way in which species and varieties are becoming extinct, languages, beliefs, traditions, empirical knowledge, and whole environmental management systems are being wiped from the face of the Earth by a shortsighted, mainstream culture that does not offer appropriate substitutes for the sustainable long-term strategies that are often part of the older and more experienced cultures.

The human and biological diversity that is under attack represents the bulk of the planet’s natural and human resource base; reducing diversity will result in a gradual loss of options for the future, not only for the current generations, but also for the many to come.