|Eco-restructuring: Implications for sustainable development (UNU, 1998, 417 pages)|
|Part I: Restructuring resource use|
|2. The biophysical basis of eco-restructuring: An overview of current relations between human economic activities and the global system|
It has become clear that many of our conventional models of development and the policy framework now in place have to be challenged. Much has been learned about how ecosystems at various scales function. We now have to translate that understanding into actions that will help us to integrate the technosphere and the sociosphere with the biosphere.
This growing understanding has led to the emergence of concepts such as vulnerability, resilience, flexibility, thresholds, and non linearity's. These are important guides in the management of our interactions with the biosphere. Equally, we are beginning to take lessons from nature that are applicable both in the parameterization of management tasks and in respect to specific aspects of interaction (see Kasperson et al. 1995).
With respect to parameterization, for example, we have to question our established notions about competition (leading to a debate over the roles of and the balance between competition and collaboration as modes of interaction). We also have to look into the need for institutional arrangements at the global level that will facilitate rather than preclude sustainable solutions at local and regional scales. The search for such a framework leads us to question existing institutional arrangements. This could lead toward defining an agenda for international negotiations over setting in place appropriate governance structures. With regard to the specifics of humans' direct interaction with the biosphere, one can think of the lessons we have learned about capturing solar energy, using it efficiently, increasing materials productivities, developing multi-functional materials, closing the materials cycle, etc. This is the rationale for exploring technological options as represented by biotechnology, photovoltaics, and so on.
In conclusion: on a per capita basis the world's growing number of inhabitants expect year after year a growing share both of the finite nonrenewable resources as well as of the only slowly growing renewable resources. An increasing conflict between these expectations and the ability of the biophysical environment to fulfil them is obvious. Although science can try to find some answers for this predicament, the final solutions must be political.
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