INTRODUCTION Human beings and the natural world are on a collision
course. Human activities are inflicting harsh and often irreversible damage
on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our
current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human
society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living
world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.
Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present
course will bring about.
THE ENVIRONMENT The environment is suffering critical stress:
THE ATMOSPHERE Stratospheric ozone depletion threatens us with enhanced
ultraviolet radiation at the earth's surface, which can be damaging or
lethal to many life forms. Air pollution near ground level, and acid precipitation,
are already causing widespread injury to humans, forests, and crops.
WATER RESOURCES Heedless exploitation of depletable ground water
supplies endangers food production and other essential human systems. Heavy
demands on the world's surface waters have resulted in serious shortages
in some 80 countries, containing 40 percent of the world's population.
Pollution of rivers, lakes, and ground water further limits the supply.
OCEANS Destructive pressure on the oceans is severe, particularly
in the coastal regions which produce most of the world's food fish. The
total marine catch is now at or above the estimated maximum sustain able
yield. Some fisheries have already shown signs of collapse. Rivers carrying
heavy burdens of eroded soil into the seas also carry industrial, municipal,
agricultural, and livestock waste--some of it toxic.
SOIL Loss of soil productivity, which is causing extensive land
abandon ment, is a widespread by-product of current practices in agriculture
and animal husbandry. Since 1945, 11 percent of the earth's vegetated surface
has been degraded - an area larger than India and China combined - and
per capita food production in many parts of the world is decreasing.
FORESTS Tropical rain forests, as well as tropical and temperate
dry forests, are being destroyed rapidly. At present rates, some critical
forest types will be gone in a few years, and most of the tropical rain
forest will be gone before the end of the next century. With them will
go large numbers of plant and animal species.
LIVING SPECIES The irreversible loss of species, which by 2100 may
reach one-third of all species now living, is especially serious. We are
losing the potential they hold for providing medicinal and other benefits,
and the contribution that genetic diversity of life forms gives to the
robustness of the world's biological systems and to the astonishing beauty
of the earth itself.
Much of this damage is irreversible on a scale of centuries, or permanent.
Other processes appear to pose additional threats. Increasing levels of
gases in the atmosphere from human activities, including carbon dioxide
released from fossil fuel burning and from deforestation, may alter climate
on a global scale. Predictions of global warming are still uncertain -
with projected effects ranging from tolerable to very severe - but the
potential risks are very great.
Our massive tampering with the world's interdependent web of life- coupled
with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss,
and climate change - could trigger widespread adverse effects, including
unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions
and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.
Uncertainty over the extent of these effects cannot excuse complacency
or delay in facing the threats.
POPULATION The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and
destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy
is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite.
And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits. Current economic
practices which damage the environment, in both developed and under developed
nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems
will be damaged beyond repair.
Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on
the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable
future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept
limits to that growth. A World Bank estimate indicates that world population
will not stabilize at less than 12.4 billion, while the United Nations
concludes that the eventual total could reach 14 billion, a near tripling
of today's 5.4 billion. But, even at this moment, one person in five lives
in absolute poverty without enough to eat, and one in ten suffers serious
No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the
threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably
WARNING The world's scientific community, herby warn all humanity
of what lies ahead . A great change in our stewardship of the earth and
the life on it is required. If vast human misery is to be avoided and our
global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.
WHAT WE MUST DO Five inextricably linked areas must be addressed
1, We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control to restore
and protect the earth's systems we depend on. We must, for example, move
away from fossil fuels to more benign, inexhaustible energy sources to
cut greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of our air and water. priority
must be given to the development of energy sources matched to Third World
needs-small scale and relatively easy to implement.
We must halt deforestation, injury to and loss of agricultural land, and
the loss of terrestrial and marine plant and animal species.
2. We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively We
must give high priority to efficient use of energy, water, and other materials,
including expansion of conservation and recycling.
3. We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all nations
recognizes that it requires improved social and economic conditions, and
the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning.
4. We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty.
5. We must ensure sexual equality and guarantee women control over their
own reproductive decisions.
The developed nations are the largest polluters in the world today. They
must greatly reduce their overconsumption, if we are to reduce pressures
on resources and the global environment. The developed nations have the
obligation to provide aid and support to developing nations, because only
the developed nations have the financial resources and the technical skills
for these tasks.
Acting on this recognition is not altruism, but enlightened self-interest:
whether industrialized or not, we all have but one lifeboat. No nation
can escape from injury when global biological systems are damaged. No nation
can escape from conflicts over increasingly scarce resources. In addition,
environmental and economic instabilities will cause mass migrations with
incalculable consequences for developed and undeveloped nations alike.
Developing nations must realize that environmental damage is one of the
gravest threats they face, and the attempts to blunt it will be overwhelmed
if their populations go unchecked. The greatest peril is to become trapped
in spirals of environmental decline, poverty, and unrest, leading to social,
economic, and environmental collapse .
Success in this global endeavor will require a great reduction in violence
and war. Resources now devoted to the preparation and conduct of war -
amounting to over $1 trillion annually - will be badly needed in the new
tasks and should be diverted to the new challenges .
A new ethic is required-a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility
for caring for ourselves and for the earth. We must recognize the earth's
limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility. We
must no longer allow it to be ravaged. This ethic must motivate a great
movement, convincing reluctant leaders and reluctant governments and reluctant
peoples themselves to effect the needed changes.
The scientists issuing this warning hope that their message will reach
and affect people everywhere. We need the help of many.
We require the help of the world community of scientists-natural, social,
economic, political; We require the help of the world's business and industrial
leaders; We require the help of the world's religeous leaders; and We require
the help of the world's peoples. We call on all to join us in this task.