Sustainability of the world's natural resources must occur to prevent repetitions of what happened on Easter Island, where population eventually exceeded its limited resources. The population's inability to adapt resulted in the loss of natural goods and services, which further resulted in the demise of the Easter Island culture and civilization. At one time, Easter Island was home to ten to twenty thousand people. Today, Easter Islanders number just a few thousand.
All over the world, population increases result in an enlarged ecological footprint. Sustenance of the population requires more and more natural resources and services, which increases pressure on both natural and human-managed ecosystems. Our current world may have reached the ecological limit on some resources, and most of the ways we currently use resources are unsustainable.
Fossil fuels are being used at a rate that is not sustainable, and the quantity of residual chemical emissions from fossil fuel use is accelerating climate change, leading to the loss of biodiversity and even human habitats, as can be seen in places such as Fuji Island and Venice, Italy. Ecological and economic summits demonstrate that relief from hunger and poverty through the assistance of developed countries is essential to devising sustainable living practices for the well-being of impoverished people and the planet.
Stewardship of resources by the world's populations, as opposed to consumption by the world's populations, is the requisite ethic for sustainability. Globalization can bring benefits from developed countries to underdeveloped ones through shared science and technology, such as the Internet. But globalization can also do harm when corporations press developing countries to exploit their natural resources, thus escalating environmental concerns.
Sound science permits accurately represented descriptions of the world's ecosystems. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment continues to describe the status and trends of global ecosystems and how human systems affect them. As increasing populations expand ecological footprints, we continue to draw down our ecosystem capital. Sound science must guide us toward sound ecological management and government policy decisions related to our ecosystem capital, which is the goods and services (fuel, food, shelter, recreation, etc.) provided by our natural resources.
An ecosystem is a biotic (organic) community joined with the abiotic (inorganic) conditions it lives in. Abiotic factors determine the kind of biotic community that will be found in a given area because the biotic community is both supported by and limited by the abiotic factors.
Ecosystems are important because they are the functional units of sustainable life on Earth, making them models of the cycles that produce sustainability. Primary producers, which capture energy from the Sun or from chemical reactions to convert CO2 to organic matter, initiate the cycle that sustains all life in an ecosystem. Primary producers are mostly green plants, which release oxygen into the atmosphere as a by-product of CO2 conversion to sugar glucose.
The function of producers sustains nutrient cycling in trophic levels. Trophic relationships between feeders and food accomplish sustainability of nutrient cycling by providing nutrients needed in trophic levels. Humans fill a role as trophic consumers who utilize organic matter provided by producers and other consumers (e.g., vegetables and beef).
Stewardship is the human ethic of active concern and care of natural lands needed by the human community to accomplish the environmental revolution of sustainability. Stewardship is the moral and ethical framework that must inform processes resulting in decisions for public (policy) and private (personal) actions.
Sound science, whereby ecologists build worldwide knowledge about ecosystems and their current status, must inform the ethic of stewardship that informs decisions and actions resulting in sustainability. The Heinz Center's report The State of the Nation's Ecosystems presents a standard of major indicators for identifying ecosystem health based on ecosystem status and trends. It also identifies what ecosystem areas need more scientific study.
Ecosystem capital is the goods and services provided by the structure of ecosystems and biomes (groups of similar ecosystems) that humans depend upon so much. Humans depend upon the ecosystem capital provided by food webs and can influence food webs positively or negatively. For example, the stewardship of oceanic ecosystems and biomes has for the most part failed: harvests are dwindling, and fish are contaminated by toxins such as phthalate plasticizers.
Earth's ecosystems continue to exist because they are sustainable. Two fundamental characteristics are crucial to sustainability. First, ecosystems' energy source, the Sun, is non-depletable and non-polluting. Second, there is efficient recycling of nutrients and other chemicals through organisms and through geological and chemical processes that result in no waste accumulation in ecosystems. Because of this, essential elements for primary producers are continuously replenished.
Because humans make heavy use of ecosystems, humans too are dependent on solar energy and nutrient recycling. Therefore, our use of ecosystem production along with our use of and intrusion into ecosystem nutrient cycling must be scrutinized for sustainable consumption decision-making. Most use and intrusion occurs at the local level, but the accumulation of many local level decisions have global impact.
Sound science is investigating the impact of human activity on ecosystems as in the Serengeti, which is in the center of expanding human activity in Kenya and Tanzania. Even though these countries are working to maintain the sustainability of the Serengeti ecosystem core, the ecosystem is feeling pressure at the margins. The Serengeti is an irreplaceable ecosystem that presents a strong challenge to keep it sustainable.
Ecosystem capital (goods and services provided by an ecosystem) is central to how ecosystems work, thus it is helpful to estimate an economic value for ecosystems. The estimated value of the world ecosystem exceeds the global world product value, and when a natural ecosystem is converted to a managed function, like agriculture, a global net financial loss is realized.
Because a globalized fossil-fuel energy and applications threaten the long-term sustainability of human civilization, a global accord is needed for a successful transition to sustainable energy sources, which will impact global economics. Other global cycles that have direct relationships to global economic processes as well as direct relationships to ecosystem sustainability are the carbon, phosphorous, and nitrogen cycles.
Change in ecosystems can come from different kinds of growth or different kinds of disasters. Exponential growth that is the result of reproduction that meets no environmental resistance is unsustainable. Likewise, linear growth that matches the ecosystem capital is equally unsustainable. Sustainable growth is a function of resistance on the ecosystem that rises slightly below the ecosystem carrying capacity then oscillates slightly above carrying capacity in an S-curve. Children and the elderly are targets of resistance to limit biotic potential (fertility potential) and thus restrain populations. Resistance yields sustainable ecosystems and sustainable maintenance of biodiversity.
Disastrous disturbances to ecosystems such a crown fires and volcano eruptions are followed by the emergence of pioneer species. These lead the process of change that in time restores the landscape to a functioning ecosystem as biodiversity and trophic levels increase. Thus it is seen that change is a fundamental property of resilient ecosystems and that non-equilibrium systems are resilient and sustainable, such as in an S-curve population growth system or in pioneer species restoring ecosystems after disasters.
Stewardship of resilient ecosystems requires managing ecosystems and restraining human and human related consumption of ecosystem capital (goods and services). Without stewardship ecosystems become pathological with degraded resilience due to depletion of ecosystem capital stock that has been consumed once sustainable levels of consumption, which fall below ecosystem carrying capacities, have been surpassed.
Sound science provides accurate pictures of declining ecosystems and loss of biodiversity thereby establishing the view of ecosystems as dynamic and changing with time. Thus it is known that ecosystem management is necessary to prevent ecosystem degradation or successional climax wherein loss of biodiversity and incursion of invasive species alter biotic or abiotic factors in the development of an ecosystem. Sound stewardship must combine with sound science to manage changes and to suppress invasive organisms and to restore natural biota.
Worldwide sustainability requires worldwide population stability in an S-curve model. A continuously increasing world population will exceed Earth's carrying capacity, with millions more—mostly in poor developing countries—who need to be housed, fed, educated, given medical care, and employed.
Sustainability requires that people maintain a smaller "ecological footprint." An ecological footprint is the representation of consumption of ecosystem capital goods and services. While developing countries could contribute by maintaining a small footprint, justice demands—and sustainability requires—that rich developed countries reduce their ecological footprint by implementing a resource transition, a technological transition, and a community transition whereby developed country's draw-down on the world's ecological capital is reduced because of radical economic and social transitions.
Stewardship in rich countries can do much to counter the growing demands of rising world populations. The burden of world sustainability cannot be lodged with developing countries even though developing countries generally have greater population increases than developed countries. Stewardship in the United States requires concern that the country is on a pathway to indefinite population increase.
Science suggests that the total global ecological footprint already exceeds Earth's carrying capacity and that our populations are still maintained only because we are drawing down and depleting ecosystem capital stock past a sustainable level. For example, as the farming sector continues to meet growing food demands, population demands put more pressure on agricultural resources such that more soil is degraded under the pressure to produce more. As another example, tropical rain forests continue to vanish as they are transformed to farm land. Furthermore, the goods and services generated by the biotic and abiotic factors in the tropical rain forest ecosystems are destroyed or drawn down by the added pressure and loss. In addition, exploitation of fisheries, oil, and other commodities belonging to ecosystems produces further loss of goods and services. This results in ecosystem capital stock continuing to be reduced to lower and lower levels.
The issue of ecosystem sustainability revolves around population growth and the level of pressure applied by populations to ecosystems. In developing poor countries, this pressure is local with a small ecological footprint whereas in developed rich countries the pressure is global with a large and far reaching footprint. The ecological footprint of global consumption has caused an unwanted form of globalization through widespread deforestation and loss of biodiversity. These issues may be rectified through restraint of pressures from rich countries on developing countries to degrade their ecosystems, and through fair prices for world goods and services.
Demographic transition, which involves lowering the CBR (crude birthrate), is essential for world sustainability and for sustainable development in developing and undeveloped countries. Economic progress that is tied to social modernization, which includes lowered fertility rates, is lacking in countries that have not made the demographic transition that is an important part of social modernization.
The World Bank's environmental policy states that sustainability is central to actions taken by the World Bank, which means protecting the local environment so that economic progress does not contribute to ecosystem degradation. Goal 7 of The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is to integrate sustainability into countries' governmental policies in order to facilitate social modernization by reversing previous environmental loss of ecosystem resources. Stewardship within the ideal of Distributive Justice, which considers inequality in the human condition as injustice, demands that human dignity be upheld by sustainability policies that meet MDG goals for the well-being, health, education, and employment of every individual on Earth.
Ecosystems can be damaged by undeveloped and developing countries when they are compelled to liquidate their ecosystem capital to pay down their international debts. This results in the loss of biodiversity and habitats that preserve thousands of specialized species that may exist nowhere else on Earth. Sustainable development and social modernization require that countries draw down only ecosystem capital interest while leaving capital stock intact in a sustainable ecosystem.
Public policy, as advocated by the MDG, must promote economic growth, while investing in educational opportunities to eliminate illiteracy, and ensure basic health services, which includes reproductive health, in order to ease restricting pressures on economic, educational and health development and to ease exponential population growth. Outside businesses and NGOs (non-government organizations) provide opportunities for traditionally self-employed sustenance farmers to enter the global market as wage earners in a market economy that fosters economic growth.
Sustainability of the hydrologic system depends upon exchanges between land, water, and atmosphere. Unsustainable water practices, such as were employed on the Aral Sea, lead to destruction of the water body and to degradation of rivers and other related aquatic ecosystems. The hydrologic cycle is a global system that sustainably renews water. However, human use of and interference in the hydrologic cycle results in immediate consequences as water tables go dry and farms dry up from lack of water. Groundwater that is used in an unsustainable manner is non-renewable when it is part of that which was formed millions of years ago.
Stewardship in wise water management will sustain the cyclical system that has been successful for eons. Without stewardship management, we will continue to change the hydrologic cycle by the release of greenhouse gases, a release that affects the hydrologic cycle and intensifies global climate change, which is responsible for droughts, famines and the continuing spread of desert lands. Stewardship requires we make government policy decisions that favor natural ecosystems and endangered species. Sound science contributes to policy making by providing understanding of issues like groundwater recharge, essential river flows, and interactions between land uses and water resources.
Our hydrologic system is one of our most valuable ecosystem capital commodities. Life—from animals to food production and beyond—depends on water. Droughts and encroaching deserts show the truth of how valuable a sustainable hydrologic cycle is. Public policy relating to this life-sustaining commodity of ecosystem capital has far reaching effects globally. The former Soviet Union saw the destruction of the Aral Sea because water was diverted for irrigation for the production of cotton. The United States drains the Colorado River to supply water to states neighboring the River, as a result very little water reaches Mexico or the Gulf waters. China's controversial Three Gorges hydroelectric dam trades 1.2 million homes for electric power and flood control.
The hydrologic cycle is a natural form of beneficial globalization that is being degraded through atmospheric pollution and changes in land use, such as Three Gorges Dam. Actions relevant to such things as climate change and tropical deforestation affect the global hydrologic cycle. Public policy must be based on sustainable water practices derived from sound science that informs about water use affects on groundwater, ecosystems, and endangered and other species.
Topsoils are formed over hundreds or thousands of years. It is critical to know how they are formed and structured in order to know how to sustain Earth's topsoils. In natural ecosystems, topsoils are highly sustainable, but in the face of agriculture, forestry, and grazing topsoil is being lost and ecosystem productivity is being degraded. Farmers in developing countries are establishing new approaches to topsoil sustainable farming. Field schools are teaching the new approaches, along with some little know traditional approaches, which yield high sustainability of topsoil.
Science produces results that are as good as the methodology used and analysis applied. Science pertaining to topsoil loss and stability and to erosion have previously been made by formulaic estimates based on information gathered from maps and aerial photographs. When actual "ground truth" data was collected in the United States and elsewhere, serious doubt was cast upon the accuracy of prior formulaic estimates. The loss of topsoil and the degradation of land bear long-term devastating consequences.
Stewardship of soil must be accomplished by those who work the soil most closely, as stewardship (of the wrong kind) can lead to loss, degradation and erosion just as easily as it can lead to sustainability. Soil is a vital and irreplaceable component of ecosystem capital. It supports plants, which are primary producers, and animals; it retains and stores water; it promotes nutrient cycling and treats waste; it is the premium resource for food production.
Public policy in the United States has not been designed for soil sustainability but for farm and ranch subsidies that accommodate powerful lobbies. An effective government policy, such as the suggested voluntary government grazing permit buyout program, may provide some solutions to sustainability of eroding soils and degraded production.
Subsistence agriculture as practiced by pastoralists and small farmers has traditionally been sustainable because waste manure is recycled and animals are fed crop residues. Slash-and-burn cultivation can surprisingly even be practiced sustainably, which means that agricultural processes maintain the integrity of soil and water resources so that practices can be continued indefinitely. Recall that the definition of sustainability is that processes can be continued indefinitely without depleting the energy or material capital resources on which the process depends; this is the goal for human and human-related interaction with the natural world.
Sustainable farming contrasts with factory animal farming in which manure waste is discarded and air and water are polluted because sustainable food production is in competition with narrowly defined economic efficiency. Further, ranching practices lead to tropical forest deforestation and overgrazing of rangeland, which are results due to public policy that undervalues these ecosystems.
As global food needs increase with rising populations, good stewardship is demonstrated by donors and organizations like the World Food Program, FEWS, and other NGOs that provide hunger and development aid and identify communities and groups who are suffering from food insecurity so they can be provided with a sufficiency for their food needs. Stewardship works with sound science as high-yield grains and other crops are developed. Science is at a controversial crossroads with the development of genetically modified crops and foods that some advocate as the future salvation of an overpopulated world and some reject even in the face of famine.
The ecosystem capital represented by global lands used for agricultural crops and animal husbandry is another of the most crucial and irreplaceable components of ecosystem capital. Even in countries with vast food production lands, like the United States, the renewable ecosystem resources must be nourished or the ecosystem capital can be drawn down below levels of sustainable practices (wherein the integrity of soil and water are maintained and renewed indefinitely) resulting in depletion, erosion and degradation. Increasing populations put added pressure on food production, as a result, pressure mounts to turn more forests and wetlands into food crop lands with the trade-off of the loss of ecosystems and habitats and the loss of goods and services.
Policy is needed that will protect ecosystems as well as the peasants in developing countries who sustain their livelihoods on those ecosystems. Further, policy in developed countries, like farm and ranch subsidies in the United States, that discriminate against developing countries must be revisited so that food production is sustainable for all as populations increase pressures on food production. Globalization requires justice for less powerful developing countries who cannot compete against protective tariffs and subsidies in developed countries. Fair trading rules give developing countries a global market for their commodities, while global foodstuffs bring hunger and famine relief to recipients who have inefficiencies of food.
Ecosystem capital is of infinite value, and human enterprises depend upon it. The pathway to sustainability of ecosystem capital is through protecting wild species whose ecosystems thrive when the species thrive. Wild species are protected in accord with the way in which they are valued. Values that drive species to extinction are not conducive to sustainability while values that encourage healthy populations--which are kept to reasonable numbers near human landscapes--are conducive to sustainability. Many animal and plant populations are currently in an unsustainable decline due to habitat loss, the introduction of exotic species, pollution, and resource overuse.
Stewardship places a high value on wild species and supports the intrinsic value of these species. Causes of population decline are due to poor stewardship that does not value wild species as is seen in such practices as eating song birds and practicing cruel trade of exotic species and their parts. Sound science being taught in universities is training professionals to work with wild species in wildlife management. The best of sound science is needed for deciding which species to enroll on endangered species lists. Science applications like biodiversity informatics broaden capabilities of wildlife management.
Wild species are ecosystem capital representing biological wealth in biodiversity and providing the basis for goods and services that sustain human life and economies. Diminishing wildlife ecosystem capital occurs when more than the interest is drawn down and species are valued in a way that leads to extinction. Policies like game laws and regulation of activities on public lands in the United States is good stewardship that protects and stabilizes wild species populations. International policy in the form of treaties and conventions protects the world community's biological diversity in order to encourage globalization of values that prevent valuations that drive global species to extinction and reduce wild species biological ecosystem capital on a global scale.
Sustainable exploitation of natural resources can be achieved through sustainable harvest. Natural resources can then continue to produce essential goods and services that support human well-being. Unsustainable harvesting drives natural resources to depletion and extinction (for example, the cyanide poisoning of coral reefs). Sustainable harvests can be exploited for human use when the focus is on managing resources within functioning ecosystems and on respecting biodiversity.
Stewardship, or "stewardly care," of natural resources means conscientiously managing resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Stewardship ethics statements have been released by some public governmental and some private agencies as well as by the United Nations. Sound science contributes accurate assessments of natural resource stock, which are used for setting accurate sustainable limits for harvesting.
The restoration of ecosystems requires a great deal of sound science related to species and ecosystem ecology, which is defined as any and all aspects of how organisms interact with each other and with their environment. Ecosystem capital is an essential part of the wealth of nations, and unsustainable human exploitation will further significantly disrupt the goods and services provided. In particular, land conversion, such as forest to crop land, will result in continued net loss.
Public policy is central to sustainable resource management. When political interests override resource management interests, sustainable exploitation and ecosystem restoration suffer. Public policy must be transparent and with mutual consent of the regulated in order for the ecosystem capital wealth of nations to be sustainably managed.
Global trade in natural resources puts pressure on ecosystem capital as resources are exploited, particularly in developing countries that depend on resources to earn important revenue. Pressure can put demand on economically valued products, like mahogany and tropical fish, that exploits them below sustainable levels, often through the exploitation of multinational corporations, to which developing countries are willing to sacrifice ecosystems, such as mangrove swamps, in order to satisfy global product demand and thereby gain desperately needed revenue.
Civilization has benefited from fossil fuels that have been buried in the earth for millions of years, but fossil fuels are nonrenewable resources that are quickly running out. The most serious consequence of fossil fuel exploitation is the emis sion of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, tropospheric ozone, and nitrous oxide, all of which have contributed to global climate change.
Stewardship requires thoughtful use of fossil fuels as we struggle to make the difficult transition to renewable power. Stewardship also requires that we plan for future generations that will have more energy difficulties than we are facing. Sound science can aid stewardly care by pointing the way to more efficient fossil fuel use, such as CHP (combined heat and power) technology now in use by some factories and institutions. Science can also further stewardship by finding a catalyst that will convert natural gas to a liquid state.
Attaining fossil fuels and coal from mountains destroys ecosystems and threatens the wilderness values of adjoining ecosystems. At the same time, ecosystems everywhere are being affected by the rising greenhouse gas levels that have influenced global climates.
Policy related to fossil fuel and coal mining changed in the 1970s when the oil crisis of that decade hit. Policies were initiated that forced energy efficiency while lowering energy consumption. However, related research into renewable energy and conservation was halted or terminated once the oil crisis was over and prices were again lowered; in fact, the United States Department of Transportation was even prohibited by Congress from continuing such studies.
Policy plays a critical part in the globalization of fossil fuel markets and industries that link the world together in transportation, communication, and the rapid flow of information. The global oil market is one of the most important components of the global economy, which will be shaken on a worldwide scale if another major disruption in energy resources occurs.
A sustainable energy future may, according to some, include nuclear power as a gap filler in the transition from nonsustainable fossil fuel to renewable energy, even though the needed uranium is not itself renewable. The most prominent argument of advocates for nuclear power is that it does not release greenhouse gases. The most prominent argument of those opposing nuclear power is the dilemma of how to contain highly radioactive spent-fuel wastes, which must be safely contained for thousands of years.
Sound science is involved with improving the operation and efficiency of nuclear power plants and the storage of nuclear wastes, but enormous questions still loom with no answers in sight: Can nuclear power be accident-free? Can nuclear waste truly be stored safely? Is there such a thing as a safe level of exposure to radioactivity?
Nuclear power is so expensive and fraught with danger that only government-funded agencies can manage the development and regulation of nuclear power. Mutual international policy agreements to dismantle nuclear warheads point out the importance of keeping close ties between countries who have nuclear weapons capabilities and nuclear power plants; power plants can be a source of weapons-grade nuclear material.
The global war on terrorism opens a major security risk at nuclear power plants, which have all increased security, though even heightened security may not be enough. The catastrophe at Chernobyl demonstrates the devastation that results from an explosion at a nuclear power plant. The affects of Chernobyl continue even today with heightened cancer rates hundreds of miles from the plant and deaths in the thousands.
Civilization is on a non-renewable energy course upon which we are dependent and which can only be maintained by increasing use of fossil fuel oil and gas and coal, with the result of rising greenhouse gas levels and increasing climate change that leads to increasing ecosystem destruction. It is imperative that civilization bring about an energy transition to a renewable energy economy, which may be based on inexhaustible solar energy, hydrogen, and electricity derived from renewable sources.
Stewardship—the management of ecosystems, ecosystem capital, and marketable natural resources—is essential to a sustainable energy future. One Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Belize, Target Earth International, has chosen to use renewable resources where ever possible, thus setting up a model for other organizations to follow. Target Earth International and others envision a future with solar panels on every church and school roof, wind turbines on every university campus, and programs that deliver bio-gas energy systems to poor people in developing countries, with an impact of these advancements felt around the world.
Sound science is aiding steps taken toward making the vision a reality by improving solar PV cell technology to make it cheaper and competitive with conventional energy sources; by producing the solar trough and solar dish; by exploring biomass technologies and low-wind-speed turbines; and by exploring hydrogen technologies for a renewable energy future.
Ecosystem capital is a costly trade-off when using hydroelectric power as a renewable energy source. The filling of huge reservoirs behind dams destroys ecosystems and displaces or kills the species living there, including humans. Dams prevent the natural flow of their host rivers and prevent the natural travel of the fish living there, while causing downstream devastation as a result of water flow fluctuations. Ecosystem and ecosystem goods and services are a costly trade-off for hydroelectric power and lowers the value of hydroelectric power as a renewable energy source.
Policy can discourage renewable energy industries just as easily as it can encourage conventional energy industries. Since government plays such an important role in energy production, it also has a major role in influencing the economies of various energy industries by granting or removing government funding subsidies. Myers and Kent (Perverse Subsidies) state that the ratio of beneficial government subsidies in the renewable energy industries as compared to conventional energy industries is 1:10 (one funding subsidy to renewable energy for ten to conventional energy).
The global industries in renewable energy supplies and production are growing at fast rates to fill the global potential for renewable energy sources. The United States could regain its footing in the global renewable energy markets (a footing that it gained in the 1970s and lost thereafter) by developing a more consistent renewable energy policy that is more favorable toward renewable, sustainable energy development.
A fundamental goal of sustainable development is the reduction of poverty. Poverty makes people susceptible to many hazards and risks that are associated with the lack of access to clean water; to clean indoor and outdoor air; to a sufficiency of nutritious food; to competent health care; and to sanitation. Infectious diseases that arise when these necessities are lacking pose a tremendous impediment to economic progress, especially when children and young adults, who form the next generations' labor forces, die from tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target international health problems so that progress in MDG's first seven goals will revolutionize environmental health and facilitate poorer countries' quest for sustainable development.
Stewardship by governments over their people includes stewardly care of health resources, though government health ministries often operate without needed revenue funds. NGOs such as the World Health Organization (WHO) help poor countries to get the information they need to address some of their countries' greatest health problems through the stewardship of a community of nations.
Sound science provides sustained attention to dedicated research in the direct interest of humankind. The WHO states that risk assessment for the major risk factors plaguing most societies has been scientifically established thereby defining risk characteristics. The new task at hand is risk management by governments, ministries and agencies responsible for the stewardship of people's health.
The United States' Center for Disease Control (CDC) is a primary example of government policy that protects the public's health, and they carry their mandate forward aggressively. Poorer countries do not have the revenue resources to face down the same difficult task of stewardship since poorer countries' health ministries have limited resources for addressing health challenges that are enormous.
One form of "Unwanted Globalization" is the rapid international spread of disease as viruses and other pathogens spread in a matter of days from an origin location to all sides of the world. The prevalence of the global incidence of HIV/AIDS and the SARS epidemic and the later H1N1 pandemic illustrate the seriousness of disease globalization and the correlated urgency of fulfilling MDG goals for global health stewardship.
Current methods of pest control guarantee that pesticides must be reused indefinitely. Pesticides also produce pest resistance, secondary outbreaks, and resurgences. Ecological control, on the other hand, is sustainable pest control without the use of pesticides or only a minimum use of pesticides.
The organic food industry has demonstrated that ecological control is a workable and an effective way to keep pesticides out of the natural world. Safe and healthy food and the elimination or reduction of pesticides are two pillars of sustainable agriculture. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) offers a reasonable alternative without unnecessary pesticide use.
The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1966 is an example of stewardship that cares for the natural world and for humans, and it is an aggressive promoter of the reduction in the use of the more toxic pesticides such as DDT, which has been linked to harm in the natural world and to human health. Sound science is contributing to ecological control by developing alternative pest controls, such as the use of pheromones to control insects.
Sound science discovered the links between pesticides, specifically DDT, and ecosystem health, including the surprising presence of biomagnification, which is the bioaccumulation (biologic accumulation) of toxins through several layers of a food chain. Biomagnification is a contributing factor to human toxic chemical body burden, which is now present in humans from infants to adults.
Ecosystem capital includes the important service of regulating work performed by predators, parasites, and diseases that keep organism populations from exploding. To ensure that this regulating service is maintained, refuges for natural predator populations should be created. Legislation based on the findings of sound science includes the founding of the EPA, the FQPA, and the Organic Foods Protection Act.
Globalization of the worst kind has spread toxic chemical pesticides (and other toxic chemicals like the flame retardant DecaBDE) around the world, where they are found in such remote places as the Arctic and Antarctica. The global community has banned together to act against this global threat to biome and ecosystem health through agencies like the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), IPM field schools, and the U.N. Code of Conduct for pesticide use.
In natural ecosystems, breaking down wastes and recycling nutrients is how sustainability is accomplished so that processes within the ecosystem can go on indefinitely. In modern societies, even though recycling of nutrients is sometimes not possible, handling waste responsibly must be accomplished to preserve an environment that will meet the needs of future generations. It is necessary to implement a shift from pollution-intensive economies to environmentally benign economies that produce non-polluting wastes and produce fewer wastes. In addition, United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDG) aid developing countries control waterborne diseases is a critical step toward sustainable development because waterborne disease causes population mortality.
Stewardship requires actively caring for people and the environment, for example through diverting public funds to cleaning up waterways in order to correct the problems that lead to eutrophication, a condition caused by super-nutrient-rich water that hosts an abundance of algae and other aquatic surface plants that cause an imbalance in the dissolved oxygen ratios in the water, which results in loss of aquatic ecosystem species that become oxygen-deprived. Oceanic dead zones, which host no life, are a result of eutrophication. Water becomes super-nutrient-rich through the accumulation of unbroken down wastes and non-manure fertilizers. Sound science is critical as agencies like the EPA carry out research and administer public policy like the Safe Drinking Water Act. Accurate risk assessments produced by sound science must back up the criteria for pollution standards as the EPA defends its regulatory actions.
Natural water systems provide an enormous bank of ecosystem capital that provides essential goods and services. The multiplying oceanic dead zones and the lakes and rivers and coastal estuaries of the world that are experiencing eutrophication because of human impacts are a high priority as our stock of ecosystem capital from aquatic ecosystems is contaminated and degraded further and our loss of goods is greater. Public policy can aid countries and various states within the U.S. in assessing water quality and updating sewage treatment systems.
Water contamination and the degradation and destruction of aquatic ecosystems is a problem of truly global dimensions and impedes sustainable development in poor countries because there is no clean water; there are waterborne diseases; and there is pollution and the lack of sanitation. The affects are far reaching in social, economic and political affairs, underscoring the reality that developing countries need development aid for attaining clean water, an attainment that will have global ramifications.
Sustainability in natural systems is built on the closed-end process of recycling materials. Our present society produces so much that is not recyclable, like resin-molded chairs and air polluting automobile tires, that it is necessary to apply intention to source reduction and product responsibility. Interstate transfer of waste and trash misappropriates energy for transportation and permits cities and states to allow economic factors to override considerations of biome and ecosystem health and is an example of unsustainable living that requires intentional application of responsible sustainability principles.
Stewardship requires regional and local decisions be made about MSW (municipal solid waste) management that override purely economic considerations, which are the driving force behind interstate waste transfer. Stewardly waste management is being implemented by various cities and states. Examples of stewardly policy would include (1) an emphasis on source reduction; (2) mandatory curbside recycling and a PAYT (pay-as-you-throw system) collection program; (3) an MRF (materials recycling facility) for efficiency in recyclables handling; (4) employing co-composting of residual MSW and sewage sludge; (5) use of local landfills for disposal of residual materials; and (6) prohibiting all interstate transfer of MSW.
Public governmental policy is crucial to waste management, especially the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as it is the agency that sets the rules for landfill operations. Further, the EPA takes a proactive role in encouraging the implementation of the constituent parts of a stewardly waste management program, such as is detailed above, comprised of: source reduction, recycling, co-composting, local and state managed MSW programs, MRFs and PAYTs, local landfill use, prohibition of interstate MSW transfer. Current pressing needs for public policy require action pertaining to the implementation of a national bottle law and of interstate transport legislation.
After creating toxic hazardous chemicals, society has followed an unsustainable course in using and disposing of toxins. More and more sites are being contaminated, cancer rates are rising, indoor air quality has declined to become often more contaminated than outdoor air, and toxic chemicals continue to be found in species as far away from civilization as the Arctic Circle. However, legislation has begun to stem the rising tide of environment contamination by hazardous chemicals.
Humanity's vital task of stewardship is to protect fellow human beings from unnecessary risk and avoidable harm. People such as Lois Gibbs and Jan Schlichtmann responded to early catastrophes by putting themselves on the line to correct the permissive attitude toward toxic-waste disposal dumps, which led to the discontinuation of the belief that environmental contamination is the "price of progress." The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) has provided a sharp incentive for industry to change its methods of toxic chemical use and disposal but development of new uses and constant agitation to ease up on regulations and accept that hazardous chemicals are no longer a serious threat show that industry's attitudes have not changed, therefore surveillance and pressure on Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continually needed.
Sound science has used toxicology to develop a thorough inventory of hazardous chemicals and some of their most obvious health risks. Research is continually exploring the health-risk links between such connections as phthalates and obesity; traffic exhaust and childhood asthma epidemics; ADD/ADHD and toxic cleaning solvents used in schools and homes; phthalates in grooming products and cancer rates; airborne environmental toxins and lupus; and dioxins and indoor air quality. Federal agencies and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) have wedded sound science and stewardship that responds to social needs by making information on hazardous chemicals available on the Internet through NTP, IRIS, NIEHS and Scorecard.
Hazardous chemicals, both commercial and industrial, have reached another point beyond which they cannot be ignored. The danger of hazardous chemicals in the environment was dramatically called to attention when rivers caught fire and the fish that survived in contaminated rivers were no longer safe for food because of their chemical body burdens of bio-accumulated toxic substances. That danger, even after decades of attention, still remains in the form of contaminated riverbed sediment and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other toxins that remain and newly occur in animal species in the remotest parts of the globe.
Current dangers come from hazardous chemicals used in cleaning products, grooming products, adhesives, carpeting, synthetic material counter tops, makeup, synthetic wool upholstery, baby bottles, flame retardants, the inner linings of food storage cans, stain repellents, fungal and mold retardants, recycled food packaging, and myriad other everyday products that loom as another such crisis as health problems, obesity, and cognitive and mental health disorders escalate out of control.
Environmental public policy has the EPA at the heart of the hazardous-chemical battle as the agency regulates, encourages, enforces, and prosecutes those who deal with hazardous chemicals. The future of policy requires vigilance as funding battles continue and policies come up for re-authorization. Global policy is of importance in the regulation of globalized hazardous chemicals and is underpinned by such international efforts as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Unwanted globalization of toxic substances is seen in the appearance of toxins in the remotest regions, borne there by air and water currents and through the business of disposing of hazardous wastes, problems that can only be regulated by international agreement.
The atmosphere regulates global climate and the health of the global ozone layer. Presently, developed countries have the world on a course for disaster due to an unsustainable rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases. Moreover, at present, developed countries are absolutely dependent on polluting technologies that are threatening our future survival. Projections of status quo fossil fuel use point to serious global consequences of rising greenhouse gases, the consequences of these gasses have graves affects on developing countries.
A sustainable pathway for climate stability is still open if steps are taken to mitigate emissions and reduce atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases to a stable and then declining level. Such a reversal is possible; the severe threat to the ozone layer has been reduced due to diligent protective measures. Regulation and elimination of ozone-destroying chemicals is stabilizing levels, which will soon decline; these actions may return the ozone layer to a healthy level, a feat, some say, that might occur by the middle of the twenty-first century.
Stewardship of Earth requires action, and some options have been suggested for effective action to prevent dangerous climate change, the affects of which are already being felt in places like Fuji Island, Venice, Italy, and Greenland. Some principles by which to act in stewardship for Earth are the "precautionary principle": the polluter pays both the principle and the equity principle. The ethics of stewardship require that rich countries help poor countries adapt to further destructive climate change, such as that which has occurred in Darfur.
Our knowledge of ozone depletion and climate change depends upon the sound science of sophisticated and costly work done by thousands of scientists all around the globe, who are now calling attention to the upcoming perils of climate change. Their discovery of ozone risks and their advocacy of action has already led to regulation of ozone-destroying chemicals, an accomplishment that now stands as proof that action can be effective, even when taken before every scientific question is answered.
Ecosystems are dependent on the climate, and global climate change will cause serious disruption to global biomes and their ecosystems. If we allow global destruction of ecosystems, in which some species will adapt or move on or be destroyed, we will globally lose ecosystem resource capital upon which we depend. The immediate impacts of climate chage are—and will be—hardest on developing countries where people live close to the land, as can be seen in the drought in Darfur and the rising waterline in Fuji.
Global climate change threats have brought about global policy responses. For example, there are international regulations in place for ozone restoration, and nations are working together to sign climate change accords, which the United States has historically resisted as being detrimental to U.S. economy, forgetting that emergencies can change the nature of the U.S. industry and economy profile almost overnight as was dramatically seen in relation to World War II. Globalized climate change requires unprecedented global leadership from the U.S., other leading nations, the U.N. and other global organizations.
Air pollution was on an unsustainable track causing photochemical smog and acid depositions, along with health disasters and increased mortality. Indicators, such as acid and sulfate depositions, ambient levels of pollutants, and asthma hospitalizations, that show the current track are decreasing but are still at detrimental levels.
Stewardship requires doing the right thing in difficult situations, and the United States has taken actions to care for children threatened by lead levels. Stewardship care has also been shown to the natural world relating to acid depositions. Current research is exposing increased levels of harm to children due to outdoor and indoor air pollution by revealing disturbing links between air pollutants and neurological and cognitive development in infants and children.
Sound science has deciphered the cause and effect relationship between photochemical smog and has discovered the cleansing role of the hydroxyl radical. Scientists have backed controversial policy designed to change the course of human and environmental damage caused by air pollutants. More sound science is needed to restore and preserve ecosystem capital that has been degraded since the introduction of new anthropogenic pollutants and much higher concentrations of naturally occurring ones since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
Policy is needed that will regulate pollutants with the aim of restoring and preserving ecosystem capital that humans depend upon, especially since acid precipitations prove that air pollution has no boundaries to cross, which results in acid precipitation in areas remote from the pollutants' points of origin. For instance, Japan receives acid deposition from China's coal industries. A new example of unwanted globalization is the Asian brown cloud. Winds whip up soil from deforestation, acids from industries, and other air pollutants causing an eastward moving cloud that contributes to illness and death from respiratory problems.
Environmental economists measure the ecological wealth of nations, with sustainability at the heart of their economic theories. They promote the idea that the natural environment encompasses the economy. This means there are limits to economic growth because economic growth is limited by the potentiality of the environment. Eventually, the economy will reach a steady state in which no further growth is possible. The World Bank contributes to measuring all the wealth of nations with a focus on sustainable development in order to improve human well-being over time. Nations must manage ecological assets, but assets must be measured before they can be managed. Depleting assets indicate unsustainable practices that may be profitable now but will contribute to intergenerational inequity and depleted ecosystem capital.
Stewardship requires laws to protect the environment because we are all stewards of our shared planet and selfish profitability must be measured against depleted and non-renewable ecological wealth. Ecosystem capital is an essential component in economic analysis, and economic analysis is integral to stewardship and policy decision making.
Globalization of the economics of ecosystem capital requires equity between the advantages of the poor countries and the rich nations. Free trade's effectiveness is hindered because of continuing subsidies and tariffs granted and imposed by rich nations. The United Nations adds favorably to ecological economics policy by helping to formulate policy based on information from the United Nations Statistics Division and the World Bank. The World Trade Organization, on the other hand, is still trying to maintain the advantages and economic interests of the wealthy nations to the disadvantage of the poor countries.
Cities that experience "urban sprawl" and "urban blight" are unsustainable. Urban sprawl is defined as the building of houses and shopping malls that are further away from urban centers and are connected by highways, all of which are developed without proper land-use planning. Urban blight (or urban decay) is defined as the deterioration and loss of buildings and services (e.g., businesses, residential neighborhoods, and schools) in inner-city areas. Both urban sprawl and urban blight result in unsustainable resource use and ecosystem capital loss.
"White flight" leaves minorities and other economically disadvantaged people trapped in deteriorating inner cities. These people suffer racial and economic discrimination and are faced with inadequate goods and services, particularly in education and health care, while non-minority groups inhabit sprawled suburban areas. Similarly, industrialization and urbanization in developing countries, which brings rural workers to urban areas for employment opportunities, results in workers being forced into slums where they are denied basic social and environmental goods and services.
Urban sprawl and urban blight are ultimately the result of poor or nonexistent public policy and city planning. In fact, the Highway Trust Fund (established in 1956) encouraged urban sprawl, which led to urban blight, by taxing gasoline for the building of roads and highways. Smart-growth policy initiatives are now taking hold as the reasons for preferences toward low-density housing. Smart-growth identifies and incorporates community planning and includes compassion for the poor who experience the brunt of urban sprawl and blight in developed countries and its parallel of slum neglect in developing countries.