The State of the Earth: Environmental Challenges on the Road by Paul K. Conkin

By Paul K. Conkin

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No฀one฀knows. ฀Unfortunately,฀it฀is฀these฀countries฀that฀are฀most฀rapidly฀ exporting,฀or฀using฀up,฀their฀natural฀assets. ฀ Such฀issues฀implicate฀a฀system฀of฀international฀accounts฀that฀would,฀in฀ proportionate฀ways,฀have฀to฀be฀incorporated฀into฀national฀accounts,฀and฀ one฀can฀sense฀the฀level฀of฀international฀conflict฀that฀might฀ensue฀if฀the฀ United฀Nations฀or฀regional฀agencies฀tried฀to฀implement฀such฀a฀system. ฀Although฀most฀poor฀countries฀have฀tried฀to฀deal฀with฀environmental฀problems,฀and฀in฀some฀cases฀have฀had฀to฀do฀so,฀they฀have฀ lacked฀the฀resources,฀or฀the฀political฀legitimacy,฀to฀enforce฀environmental฀ legislation.

Economic฀growth,฀both฀in฀developed฀countries฀and฀poor฀countries,฀will฀be฀self-defeating฀if฀it฀involves฀a฀using฀up฀of฀ nonrenewable฀resources,฀such฀as฀fossil฀fuels,฀or฀a฀steady฀draw฀down฀of฀ renewable฀resources,฀such฀as฀forests฀or฀soil฀nutrients. ฀Poor฀ countries,฀by฀necessity,฀are฀rapidly฀using฀up฀renewable฀resources,฀while฀ the฀wealth฀of฀affluent฀countries฀depends฀upon฀the฀past฀and฀continuing฀ exploitation฀of฀the฀world’s฀dwindling฀reserve฀of฀fossil฀fuels. ฀ But฀because฀of฀the฀population฀explosion,฀never฀before฀have฀so฀many฀environmental฀problems฀been฀global฀in฀their฀implications฀(global฀warming,฀ massive฀extinctions฀of฀species,฀rain฀forest฀destruction,฀acid฀rain,฀ocean฀ pollution)฀and฀so฀difficult฀both฀to฀understand฀and฀to฀mitigate.

Such฀countries฀cannot฀afford฀to฀attend฀to฀ developing฀environmental฀problems. ฀In฀a฀sense,฀the฀great฀overarching฀problem฀ Population,฀Consumption,฀and฀the฀Environment 37 for฀poor฀countries฀is฀continued฀rapid฀population฀growth,฀a฀problem฀that฀ wealthy฀countries,฀with฀stable฀or฀declining฀populations,฀can฀do฀little฀to฀ influence฀from฀a฀distance. ฀No฀more฀in฀wealthy฀countries,฀although฀problems฀of฀waste฀disposal฀still฀haunt฀them. ฀ But฀ who฀ doubts฀ that฀fact?

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