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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

Our sister planet

As the Earth moves around the sun, it is accompanied by the Moon. Before the 1960s, humans had no influence on the lunar environment. For 4 billion years or more, our sister planet evolved according to the general laws of celestial physics, its surface modified only by lava flows (in very ancient times), meteorite impacts, terrestrial tides, and solar radiation and particles.

For many years, even during the lunar landings of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was believed that the Moon had no atmosphere. Now we know that it possesses a very thin one, consisting mainly of helium, argon, sodium, potassium, radon, and polonium (data from the 1972 Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment, see Stem 1993). The total mass of the lunar atmosphere is small - only about 30 tonnes for the whole planet.

The effect of the Apollo missions on the lunar environment was considerable. Each flight increased the mass of the lunar atmosphere by one-third. The gas escaped after a few weeks, but it was “renewed” curing each mission. The impact of establishing a settlement on the Moon would be enormous. The Moon missions showed that humans can change planets, even without meaning to.

The Earth is much bigger than the Moon: its diameter is four times greater and it is some 90 times more massive. Every day, however, the equivalent of several hundred thousand “Apollo missions” take place as aircraft take off and land. In addition, 500 million cars and 10 million factories use atmospheric gases and release others in ways quite contrary to natural cycles.

The production of carbon dioxide (CO2), for example, has been increasing exponentially since the beginning of the industrial revolution. During the first stages of the industrial era, coal was burned in large quantities. Later, factories fumed to petroleum, which is still used, and the volume of CO2 and other associated gases being emitted into the air is steadily increasing.

How much can the atmosphere of a planet like Earth absorb before changes start to occur in the gaseous layers and the crust? We don’t know the answer. Changes may already have started, and the situation may already be critical. We are “playing with fire” in both the literal and symbolic sense. We have good reason to worry, mainly because we still know so little. In the following section, some factors that might allow us to decipher the indicators of global change are discussed.